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The X3 is no longer the baby in the BMW family of sport utility vehicles that are sold in the United States. That distinction now belongs to the X1, a new addition in the 2013 lineup for the German auto manufacturer.

Although not an entry-level model for Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW), the X3 doesn’t exactly tower over its new sibling, which actually is new only to American car buyers. The X1 has been on sale in Europe for more than three years.

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The all-wheel drive X3 is a relative newcomer as well, introduced to the U.S. market in 2010. This small luxury crossover SUV resides in between the X1 and the midsize X5 in the BMW lineup.

Characteristic of the BMW brand, the X3 features a stylish appeal, does well in the performance department, offers a long list of standard features, and comes with a somewhat hefty sticker price.

The most noticeable change in the 2013 model is the departure of the base model’s V6 engine. Borrowing on an idea that has become a popular trend, the X3 now has a high-tech, turbocharged engine that has equal power, but added more torque. The new engine impacts fuel economy, which increased to 21-28 mpg.

Below are the three other changes that BMW has made to this year’s X3.

  • Standard automatic stop/start technology: Typically found on hybrids only, the X3’s engine goes dormant when the vehicle comes to a full stop. The result: better gas mileage. The engine comes back to life you when the foot comes off the brake. However, the downside is a vibration/hesitation when the X3 engine starts up that may annoy some impatient drivers.
  • Eco Pro mode: Also a standard feature, the Driving Dynamics Control adjusts settings. Eco Pro mode significantly improves fuel efficiency.
  • Costs: Note that the base X3 jumped $900 in price and the 6-cylinder, xDrive35i hiked $1,670 higher than the 2012 model. But the cost increases can also be attributed to the addition of more standard equipment.

The turbocharged entry-level X3 xDrive28i is a 2.0-liter, 8-speed automatic that producers 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. BMW says it can go from 0-60 in 6.5 seconds.

If performance is your thing, opt for the xDrive35i, a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 with 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. It beats the entry-level model by a second, going 0-60 mph in a very brisk 5.5 seconds. Note that the xDrive35i also costs about $5,000 more at $43,950.

BWM owners expect a smooth, efficient ride, and that’s exactly what the X3 delivers. The switch to the turbocharged engine has made it quicker and more efficient. The X3 handles quite nicely and is quiet as well.

The interior features are also first rate. The simulated leather seating feels like the real thing in the X3. This SUV seats five people in its two rows and provides front and back seat passengers with good head and leg room. Cargo space is above average as well and expands to a sizable 63.3 cubic feet when the rear seats go down.

If money is not an issue, the X3 is a good way to go when looking for a smaller SUV. It’s and appealing choice, thanks to the more efficient turbocharged engine, comfortable cabin, long list of standard features, and all-wheel drive capability.

2013 BMW X3

  • Performance: 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder, 240 horsepower; 3.0-liter, turbocharged six-cylinder, 300 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: 19-28 mpg
  • Price: $38,850 to $43,950
  • Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles; drivetrain 4 years/50,000 miles; roadside assistance 4 years/unlimited
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