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Autos

BMW's new X3 aims for the X Factor

Staff
Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 05:51 AM

So, does BMW's refreshed and reminted X3 cute-ute have the 'X Factor'? Would that cynical Brit, Simon Cowell approve? Could Paula fit in the back seat?

When BMW pulled the wraps off its original X3 back in 2004, it had a couple or three shortcomings.

Most glaring was its rock-hard suspension. Add to that a shortage of rear-seat legroom that would have had Mini-Me moaning. Plus, a cabin with trim that could have come from the Dollar Store.

All that changed earlier this year with the arrival of the second-generation X3.

It got stretched three inches plus an inch or so in width. Size-wise, it's now almost as big as the first-generation X5.

Climb into the back and there's now adult-sized knee room. For pint-size Paula, it would feel like a stretched limo.

To answer complaints over the eyeball-jiggling ride, BMW developed a new multilink rear suspension and retuned the front struts. The new ride is still sporty and firm, but far from unpleasant.

See this new "Built in South Carolina" X3 in the metal and it now looks as sporty as Serena in Spandex. The body is now more creased and contoured and features a tougher front-end with broader nostrils and a racy aero-style spoiler.

Power-wise, there's a choice of two familiar engines – a naturally aspirated 3.0-liter straight-six cranking out 240 horses, plus a 300-horse turbo version. Both now come standard with a fast-shifting 8-speed automatic.

I just spent a week with the "starter" X3 – the $37,625 xDrive 28i – and loved every minute. It's quick, agile, a blast to drive and a lot smoother over gnarly asphalt.

And, like all new BMWs, you get peace of mind from the standard four-year/50,000-mile free maintenance program.

Even Simon would approve of that.

Tampa-based auto writer Howard Walker can be reached at walkweb@verizon.net

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