2013 BMW X5 vs. 2013 BMW X3

By Teddy Field

Most car comparisons are between opposing cars, but we thought it’d be fun to pit these two Cute-UTEs against each other to see who they might appeal to.

When BMW launched their first SUV a decade ago, purists cringed, and housewives in Beverly Hills jumped for joy. Here was a BMW with all the cargo/butt capacity of a 5-Series wagon, and all the road bully-ness of an SUV. On the road, the BMW X5 drove with all the verve that you’d expect from one of Munich’s Finest. And since they owned Land Rover at the time, the X5’s off-road tech was supposed to be brilliant. But it wasn’t.

Then they spit out the BMW X3, which was supposed to be smaller, and sportier. They even billed it as a “Sport Activity Vehicle”. But it was about as enjoyable as watching Carrot Top perform live…while being stabbed by a 9-arm gorilla.

Even with their glaring faults, BMW sold those early trucklets hand over fist. Americans like shouty Branded things, so the lack of refinement didn’t matter much (how do you think Cadillac stayed in business all these years?). But Act II promises to be better…

2013 BMW X5

2013 BMW X5

In other parts of the world, the 2013 BMW X5 is considered to be a “big off-roader”. But in this country, it’s still just midsize. Smaller than a Cadillac Escalade, or a Mercedes GL, the 2013 BMW X5 offers an ‘easily managed’ size, and similar non-existent off road capability. The standard xDrive system works well enough for most owners, but it’s not going to take you very far off the beaten path. It does have an optional third row like the big boys, but that too is far from being truly useful.

2013 BMW X5

The 2013 BMW X5 is first and foremost a luxury vehicle. Almost every surface on the interior, feels expensive. The switchgear has a satisfying ‘click’ to it, and there’s plenty of gadgetry to distract you from driving. For instance, you can pair your Apple phone with iDrive, then the optional BMW Apps will allow you to Tweet an update to your MyFace page via the in-dash screen. But for the sake of the rest of us on the road, please avoid that option.

2013 BMW X5

What the 2013 BMW X5 does well is traversing our nation’s interstate system. You’ll be like Christopher Columbus at the helm of a 2.5 ton, German-by-way-of-Alabama, Santa Maria. On the highway, particularly in diesel guise (2013 BMW X5 xDrive35d), the big Bimmer hurls its immense weight down the road, daring anyone to get in your way. Those evil looking dual-running lights glare at slower drivers, as you sit serenely behind the wheel, watching traffic part before you (except in Southern California, where the guy in front of you will probably be driving an X5…or a Prius). The optional adaptive suspension absorbs bumps decently, and they help to hustle this big truck through curves with aplomb. The standard independent suspension can do the same thing, but the low-speed ride suffers because of the weight.

So if you spend a lot of time on the road, traveling between offices, or cheer-squad competitions, the 2013 BMW X5 might be your Ultimate Cruising Machine.

2013 BMW X3

2013 BMW X3

Where the 2013 BMW X5 focuses on hauling people, the smaller 2013 BMW X3 helps you to haul both people and cargo. Designed for younger customers, who might need to lug around miscellaneous sporting gear, the X3 comes with adjustable tie-down anchors in the cargo area. The cargo floor can also be flipped over to reveal a waterproof surface. There’s waterproof storage beneath the floor, the cargo net/cover can be fitted behind the second or first row (to protect you from getting smacked in the head by a muddy mountain bike). And there’s a 110v outlet in the back to power your laptop…in case you need to ask Google how to perform first aid (a mobile WiFi Hotspot is available on all 2013 BMW’s).

2013 BMW X3

Up front, the cabin of the 2013 BMW X3 is upscale, and very well made. Where the last-gen X3 used cheap plastics, and poor quality standards (it was built under contract by an Austrian firm). The new one is built in Alabama using more expensive materials, and better quality control. The result is a small, luxurious crossover that drives like a BMW should.

2013 BMW X3

Put the optional adaptive dampers into Sport+ mode, and the stability control gets watered down to allow a bit of tire-squealing fun. For a truck, the 2013 BMW X3 is shockingly fun to drive.

Adding to all this asphalt-chewing euphoria is a selection of torquey turbo powerplants. The base 2013 BMW X3 xDrive28i now gets the 2.0 turbo-4, which produces an impressive 240-hp / 260 lb-ft. Gas mileage is an equally impressive 21/28/24 (remember, that’s with a standard AWD system), and the little engine rarely feels out of breath (except maybe at the top end). For more get-up-and-go, the top shelf 2013 BMW X3 xDrive35i gets the 300-hp / 300 lb-ft twin-scroll turbo 3.0 inline-6.

As long as you don’t try to take your 2013 BMW X3 further than say, the parking area at the State Park, you’ll probably love it. They call it a “Sports Activity Vehicle”, and for once, they might be right.

SPECIFICATION2013 BMW X52013 BMW X3
Price$47,500$38,500
Fuel Economy16/23/19 3.0 liter / AWD21/28/24 2.0 liter / AWD
14/20/16 4.4 liter V8 / AWD19/26/21 3.0 liter / AWD
16/26/22 3.0 liter TDI / AWD21/30/24 2.4L GDI / FWD
Suburban Snob Factor8 / 10 Camrys5 / 10 Camrys
IIHS RankingTop Safety Pick = NTop Safety Pick = Y
NHTSA RankingN/AN/A
Why Buy It?
The 2013 BMW X5 is like the Santa Maria on-wheels. You can explore the country in comfort, and the diesel-fired 2013 BMW X5 xDrive35d even qualifies for the $900-$1,800 Advanced Lean Burn Technology Motor Vehicle tax credit. Your accountant should love that.
Unlike previous versions, the 2013 BMW X3 is a sporty SUV that you can actually use/live with every day. It is expensive, but it is a BMW after all.