The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

BMW X3 Gets 'Very Good' Rating In Consumer Reports' Tests Of Sporty SUVs

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

X3 outpoints Acura RDX & Mazda CX7; Toyota FJ Cruiser, Jeep Wrangler are disappointments

YONKERS, NY - December 1, 2006: Consumer Reports rated the BMW X3 best overall inn tests against two of its competitors—the Acura RDX and Mazda CCX7—for the January issue. The X3 achieved a “Very Good” score in testing conducted at Consumer Reports’™ Auto Test Center in East Haddam, Connecticut. The RDX and CX-7 finished with lower overall scores, though still in the “Very Good’™ range.

Consumer Reports’ ratings for sporty SUVs emphasize a comfortable ride, well-appointed interior, and quickness, agility, and responsiveness on the road.

Separately, CR also tested the rugged new Toyota FJ Cruiser against the redesigned 2007 Jeep Wrangler. In CR’s view, SUVs with low-range gearing like these should be capable off-road but still have a compliant ride, good road manners, and comfortable accommodations. (Off-road capabilities are not factored into CR’s overall scores for these vehicles.)

“The X3 offers the versatility of an SUV with the sportiness typical of a BMW,”said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center. “The 3.0-liter inline engine is smooth and powerful, handling is agile, and steering and braking are excellent.”

Full tests and ratings of the SUV group appear in the January issue of Consumer Reports, which goes on sale December 5. The complete report is also available to subscribers of

Consumer Reports recommends only the Acura RDX based on the vehicle’s predicted reliability. The X3 has below-average reliability in CR’s subscriber surveys; CR does not have sufficient reliability data on the CX-7. The FJ Cruiser and Wrangler scored too low to be recommended. This is the second time in recent months that a new model from Toyota has scored too low to earn a recommendation; the first was the Yaris, which was tested for the December 2006 issue and achieved a “Fair” overall score. Consumer Reports only recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR’s Annual Car Reliability Survey of its own subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.

The freshened X3 now has a more powerful engine, a six-speed automatic transmission, and some interior improvements. It’s agile and fun to drive but the ride still feels nervous and choppy. The X3 3.0si ($43,120 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 260-hp, 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine that delivers very good acceleration. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly but could be more responsive in its regular driving mode. The cargo area is good and braking performance is excellent overall.

The RDX competes directly with the X3 but it’s considerably cheaper. Though it feels sporty to drive, its turbocharged, four-cylinder engine feels unrefined. Handling is agile but the ride is stiff. The RDX ($37,165 MSRP as tested) is equipped with a turbocharged, 240-hp, 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engine that is quick and responsive but is not as smooth as the six-cylinder engines used by competitors and does not offer any fuel economy benefits. The five-speed transmission is excellent. The RDX’s cargo area is fair and its brakes are very good overall.

The CX-7 shares components with the Mazda6 sedan and the small Mazda5 minivan. Conceptually similar to the RDX, the CX-7 has a lower price and less refinement. The CX-7 Grand Touring ($32,915 MSRP as tested) comes with a turbocharged 244-hp, 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine that has strong midrange power. But its turbo lag causes a frustrating hesitation at low revs, such as when merging. The six-speed transmission shifts smoothly most of the time. Cargo area inside the CX-7 was judged fair. Its brakes are excellent.

Although the FJ Cruiser’s styling attracts a lot of attention, it also creates many compromises. Visibility is significantly limited by the small windows and wide roof pillars, and the rear-hinged rear doors give poor access. Handling is clumsy and the ride is very jittery. Impressive off-road ability and a strong powertrain are among the vehicle’s strengths. The FJ Cruiser ($30,621 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 239-hp, 4.0-liter V6 that is refined and delivers very good acceleration. Its five-speed automatic transmission shifts very smoothly. The cargo area is good. The FJ’s brakes are very good.

The redesigned Wrangler has entered the modern era, with more creature comforts, modern safety gear, and an available four-door model. Its off-road performance is very impressive. But while on-road ride, handling, and refinement are improved, they are still not competitive. The Wrangler Unlimited Sahara ($30,735 MSRP as tested) is propelled by a 205-hp, 3.8-liter V6 engine that has to work hard to deliver just average performance. The four-speed automatic transmission doesn’t downshift readily but is smooth enough. The cargo area is very good. Brakes in the Wrangler are good.