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Edgy BMW X3 xDrive35i: Perfect size
The 2011 BMW X3 is completely redesigned and refined with more appealing styling. Sold in two models, pricing starts at $38,500 and ranges to $53,000 for the top-line xDrive 35i with options. - photo by Photo Contributed

Body style: midsize, five-passenger, all-wheel-drive crossover
Engine: 300-hp, twin-scroll turbocharged, direct-injection, inline 3.0-liter 6-cylinder with variable valve timing
Torque: 300 ft.-lb. at 1,300 to 5,000 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with Sport and Manual shift modes and adaptive transmission control
0-60 mph: 5.5 seconds
EPA fuel economy estimates: 19 mpg city, 26 highway; premium fuel recommended
Fuel capacity: 17.7 gal.
Cargo space: 27.6 cu. ft.
Front head/leg/shoulder room: 40.7/39.9/57.3 in.
Rear head/leg/shoulder room: 39.1/36.8/56 in.
Length/width/wheelbase: 183/74.1/110.5 in.
Curb weight: 4,222 lbs.
Turning circle: 39 ft.
Towing capacity: 3,000 lbs.
Standard equipment includes: xenon adaptive (auto-leveling) headlights with LED corona rings; halogen fog lights; rain-sensing wipers with automatic headlight control; iPod and USB adapter; Bluetooth; LED adaptive brake lights
Safety features include: six air bags; four-wheel vented anti-lock disc brakes with Dynamic Brake Control; stability control with brake drying; brake standby; start-off assistant and brake fade control
Base price: $41,925, including $875 freight charge; price as tested: $53,015
Where assembled: Spartanburg, South Carolina
Warranty: 4-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper with free full maintenance and roadside assistance

The BMW X3 35i is almost as much fun to drive fast as the BMW 3-series sedan, with which it shares a platform and engines.

The 300-horsepower, 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine boasts all the latest tech innovations: direct injection, twin-scroll turbocharging and steplessly variable valve timing. And the power flows through an eight-speed automatic transmission with sport and manual modes.

You can’t buy more advanced powertrain technology — in this price range — that’s so user-friendly.

The X3 is available in two all-wheel-drive models (as is the 3-series sedan). The X3 xDrive28i starts at $38,500 and the xDrive35i, today’s test vehicle, starts at $41,925. With options, the tester was $53,015, including the freight charge from Spartanburg, S.C.

The non-turbo, 240-hp X3 28i provides plenty of car for most drivers. For those who have more to spend and want more out of their driving experience, the 35i is engaging, satisfying and as intense as most will want to push it.

The X3 is freshly redone this year and is a huge improvement on a ute that was good to begin with. It’s still tough and durable, but not so trucky. Dimensionally, the new model is half an inch taller, 3.36 inches longer and a tad more than an inch wider with half an inch more ground clearance.

The size is right for 40 inches of headroom, and back-seat legroom is good at 36 inches, with foot-room under the seats. The back seat isn’t raised, but there are 39 inches of headroom and a center position comfortable enough (at least in the short-term) for an adult.

The interior is a fresh treatment of elegant simplicity. Even the xDrive controller for various car functions has been streamlined and is actually logical to use, or just ignore. Most of the day-to-day audio/climate adjustments have their own buttons.

The sport seats in the tester, part of a $1,250 package, had eight-way power adjustable seats (with lumbar) and two-way manual thigh support for the big and tall driver. The steep side bolsters may be too much for some, but even those “wings” have power adjustment.

BMW has a special recipe to the triangulation of seat, pedals and steering wheel positions. I can always dial in a comfortable position with my hands on the 9 and 3 positions on the wheel for head-up driving.

The eight-speed transmission always seemed to be in the correct gear for easy acceleration. But there are sport and sport-plus modes that amp up shift points, steering weight and suspension — and the drive still wasn’t rough. Seventh and eighth gears allow 26 mpg on the highway and 19 around town. The smallish fuel tank, at 17.7 gallons, may make it seem that mileage is less.

The cargo area is wide and square with a low liftover. There is “basement” storage and the seats fold easily to expand capacity.

Among the assets of the premium package, $3,450, is the useful storage package of nets, rails and tie-downs and a panoramic sunroof that, remarkably, can be enjoyed wide open at interstate speeds without a trace of buffeting.

The technology package, $3,200, is worth it for the rearview camera, navigation with real-time traffic rerouting and enhanced Bluetooth. My phone hooked up easily, and the hands-free use was simple.

The only fumble points for me were snapping the seat-belt tab into the receptacle, which is placed low for improved safety. And the turning circle is wide at 39 feet — unusual for a BMW.

The extras on the test truck added up to a strong sticker price, but the advanced technologies are a benchmark of refined integration for the driver (something new for BMW). If you keep a vehicle for 10 years, the competition will still be working to catch up to the X3.