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The BMW X3 compact crossover SUV gets more efficient for 2013 with a new engine and new standard features, including automatic stop/start on all models. The naturally aspirated inline-6 once used in the base xDrive 28i is gone, replaced with a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 found on many other BMW models, including the X1, Z4, and 3 Series. Although smaller than the outgoing engine, the new twin-scroll turbo is slightly more powerful and offers improved fuel economy.
The X3 was redesigned for 2011, and that body style carries over unchanged. The exterior is tasteful, with classic BMW design cues such as the signature twin-kidney grille. Inside, the interior is luxuriously appointed, with a surprisingly generous amount of cargo space behind the second row. A power liftgate is now standard on 2013 X3 models.
The 2013 BMW X3 offers two model choices: The 2013 BMW X3 xDrive 28i is powered by a new, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque.
The 2013 BMW X3 xDrive35i keeps its 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 good for 300 hp and 300 lb.-ft. of torque. Both engines are mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.
BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system comes standard on all X3 models. The X3 retains as much of a rear-drive feel as it can muster, using a multi-plate clutch to vary rear-to-front torque split from fully 100 percent committed to the rear to 40 percent sent forward to assist with traction when needed.
During our test drive, the BMW X3 xDrive35i demonstrated some of the best poise and isolation we've ever experienced in an SUV on gravel roads. Its suspension system, which uses a double-joint spring-strut mechanism at the front and a multi-link system at the rear, makes it the best-handling X3 to date.
The automatic stop/start system is invasive, however, and makes an obvious shutter when turning off or starting up again. The driver can switch it off, but it resets back to on every time the car is started.
All 2013 BMW X3 models are equipped with BMW's Driving Dynamics Control, which allows drivers to select from four driving modes that range from sporty to thrifty. The system adjusts the suspension as well as the level of steering assist. A new mode, dubbed Eco Pro, can reduce fuel usage by up to 20 percent, according to BMW, by optimizing engine, transmission, brakes, climate control and electrical settings. A special display on the iDrive screen shows where the vehicle is saving energy and coaches drivers on how to be most efficient.
Fuel economy estimates for the 2013 BMW X3 are 21/28 mpg City/Highway with the 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 found on the xDrive28i, according to the EPA, 19/26 mpg City/Highway with the 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 used on the xDrive35i. Premium fuel is required with both engines.
When it comes to small luxury crossovers, the 2013 BMW X3 beats most competitors on cargo space, including the Mercedes-Benz GLK350. The X3 is perhaps the best choice in the segment for those looking for practicality without compromising sporty driving dynamics, but those attributes don't come cheap. Price-wise, the X3 reaches into larger SUV territory, overlapping with more practical people movers like the Acura MDX and Lexus RX 350. From a size standpoint, the BMW X3 competes with the Acura RDX, Audi Q5, and GLK-Class.