Through what I’ll just call a bizarre set of circumstances, I found myself needing to make a 520 mile drive through Maryland, West Virginia, and Kentucky over the weekend, and I found myself without a car to do it. No matter—I’m such a frequent renter of cars from National Car Rental that I have a seemingly limitless number of free rental days to use. Three clicks of my mobile app, and I was headed to Baltimore/Washington International airport to pick up a free one-way rental from the Emerald Aisle Executive area.
Let me back up a bit first, and perhaps that will help you understand how much I hated my time with the 2017 BMW X3.
Eight weeks ago, National breathlessly emailed me to tell me that the X3 was now available as a choice for Executive and Executive Elite members. I’ve been Executive Elite for the last 8 years in a row (note to self: write a blog post in the future about the psychology behind telling people that they’re elite because they spend 45 weeks a year missing soccer games and school plays) so I qualify to rent one of these things for roughly $45 a day any time that I see one available. But my preference for the Chrysler 300 as a rental is well-documented at this point, and, besides, I had yet to encounter one on the Aisle in ATL, LGA, JFK, SEA, MIA, RDU, or anywhere else that I’d been in that timeframe.
But as I rolled into the BWI garage, I spotted three X3s, all in traditionally inoffensive BMW color choices, all with under 10K on the clock. “Why not?” I thought to myself, and put my luggage in the storage compartment.
Now, before I go any further, I’m going to tell you how much this thing costs, should you be stupid enough to want to buy a “luxury” CUV that’s been on the market for over seven years with only a mild mid-cycle refresh. As it was equipped for my 24-hour tour of misery, the BMW X3 costs a whopping $46,750. No, I’m not joking. That’s how much a 2.0 liter four-cylinder powered, no winter package, no technology package, no “X-Line” package X3 costs with a panoramic sunroof and navigation. I think we all know how many other awesome cars we could buy for this amount of money (including a mother-flipping Focus RS with every box checked), so I won’t list them all. But there’s a lot.
Here’s all the things I didn’t get for that amount of money:
- A decent seating position. It was impossible to find any position that didn’t make my back hurt. Lumbar seating controls were best left at zero, as any attempt to manipulate them caused bulbous, uncomfortable lumps to appear in random places on the seat.
- A stereo system that sounded better than two cans on a string. If one is in the car for ten straight hours (damn you, random West Virginia construction), one would hope that there would be some sort of audio entertainment that exceeds the quality found in, say, a Kia Soul. Nope.
- A dashboard with any information on it. At all. All the information above and beyond the tach, speedo, and fuel gauge was only available in the hopelessly complicated infotainment system, which required me to take me eyes completely off the road for several seconds to navigate using a dial that was conveniently placed on the other side of the gear selector on the center console. Here’s a picture of the dash. You might expect to see something similar on the dash of your child’s Power Wheels.
- Anything like decent fuel mileage. I averaged about 22 MPG for the trip after I accounted for the 90 minute stoppage in the middle of West Virginia. This wouldn’t be so bad except…
- Power. Dear God, this thing was gutless. Keep in mind, I’ve owner a four-cylinder Equinox. This was worse. The reviews say that the X3 will do 0-60 in a tick over six seconds. This absolutely cannot be true. However, I might be biased because…
- Acceptable engine noise. Any hint of acceleration is rewarded with a hideous, pained exhaust noise that sounds like souls escaping a graveyard. I felt like I might actually be killing kittens or preventing angels from getting their wings every time that I touched the go pedal.
- The ability to use standard gasoline. There are lots of things you want from a rental car. The requirement to use premium gasoline? Not one of them.
So what does the X3 do well? It handles decently. Not well. Decently. The worse the rain got in the Appalachians, the more confidence the X3 gave me in descending hills. I appreciated that much.
Oh, wait, now I remember what it does well. It impresses suburban women. I had to pick up my son from a play date when I got back to Kentucky. His friend’s mom noticed it right away as being “not your normal car,” and “really nice.” Dr. Mrs. Bark, who is normally immune to any automotive charm, said, “This is nice.” My daughter climbed in the back seat and said, “Dad, can we buy this car?”
And therein lies the special talent of the BMW X3. Women like it. It’s ugly, it’s slow, it has fewer features than you’d reasonably expect from a Chevrolet Equinox costing half as much, it’s terrible to drive, the entire instrument panel and dash look every bit of seven years old…and yet, suburban SAHMs line up to drop cash on them, thanks to the Roundel and the Kidney Grille. If you put a Bowtie or a Blue Oval on it, it’s not worth $15k.
I hate this car. If you own one, I probably also hate you.