Fierce rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz go head-to-head in all vehicle classes, fighting for similar customers. In the supremely-popular compact SUV category, the all-new 2011 BMW X3 Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) takes on the 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK350.
Both vehicles follow traditional design aesthetics for the class with tall, wagon-esque profiles and ground clearance that allows for forays off the beaten path. The first advantage the BMW X3 has over its Mercedes competitor is a critical distinction between the two—while two-wheel drive is standard in the GLK, BMW includes the xDrive intelligent all-wheel-drive system on both X3 models. The second BMW advantage is a pragmatic one. The entry X3 xDrive28i MSRP is $36,750 while the two-w
heel drive GLK starts at $35,880. Adding all-wheel drive to the GLK brings its MSRP to $37,880. So, BMW leaves an extra $1,130 in your pocket.
All GLKs are equipped with a 3.5-liter 268-hp V6 and a seven-speed automatic transmission. In the BMW X3, drivers are afforded a choice of two powertrains.
The BMW X3 xDrive28i incorporates a 240-hp 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder, paired with an eight-speed Steptronic® automatic transmission with both Sport and Manual modes. It also offers Adaptive Transmission Control. Drivers can choose the X3 xDrive35i, which comes with BMW’s award-winning 3.0-liter TwinPower Turbo inline-six. This engine packs a wallop, delivering a tidy 300 hp and 300 lb/ft of torque through an eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission. It was also named one of Ward’s 10 Best Engines for 2011.
Where the X3 powertrain choices leave the Mercedes behind for good is at the gas pump. The GLK manages an overall EPA fuel economy rating of just 18 mpg (16 mpg city/21 to 23 mpg highway). The efficient BMW engines, combined with transmissions that include an extra gear, handily outclass the 3.5-liter in the Benz. The X3 xDrive 28i is EPA-rated at 21 mpg combined (19 mpg city/25 mpg highway). The muscled-up x3 XDrive35i matches that 21 mpg all-around number, and delivers an extra mpg on the highway (26 mpg) to boot. Either way, the X3 is a more fuel-efficient choice.
The Mercedes-Benz once again comes up short when facing off against BMW X3 utility. The GLK350 offers 23.3 cubic feet of luggage space behind the second-row seats and a maximum of 54.7 cubic feet when they’re folded out of the way. The X3 has 27.6 cubic feet of standard cargo room behind the backseats, and 63.3 cubic feet when the second row is folded. With practicality such an essential part of the compact utility vehicle formula, the X3 is again, a runaway winner compared to the Mercedes-Benz.
Inside, both the BMW and the Mercedes-Benz have plenty to offer as luxury marques, but the X3 equipment list is particularly complete. It includes a 12-speaker, 205-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with standard iPod and USB adapters and HD Radio. The GLK only has a six-speaker system standard. Available X3 upgrades include a 600-watt, 16-speaker 5.1 surround-sound premium audio system, along with SIRIUS Satellite Radio and BMW Apps, a feature that lets drivers use the BMW Connected app for access via iDrive to Facebook, Twitter and web radio stations, along with other BMW-certified third-party apps.
The X3 offers an even more driver- and passenger-friendly environment thanks to convenience features like a power tailgate, panoramic moonroof and Head-Up Display. The available M Sport Package accessorizes the X3 for an even sportier look. A Technology Package includes not only navigation, but also Park Distance Control, Rear-View Camera with Top View and real-time traffic data. Xenon headlamps and automatic high beams are just two more examples of available enhancements.
Ultimately, the 2011 BMW X3 has more to offer than the GLK. Standard all-wheel drive, a muscular available turbo engine, more cargo capacity and superior fuel efficiency put it over the top. There are many choices for compact luxury SUV shoppers, but the smart one is clear— the 2011 BMW X3.