Base price: $46,900; as-tested price: $60,900
I don't get this one at all. It's rare that I drive a car these days that I flat-out don't like and can't wait to get out of, but the X3 – and most current BMW products for that matter – annoyed the hell out of me. It may be the most counter-intuitive vehicle I've ever driven, and I spent way too much time fighting with its controls.
It's almost as if the car is saying to you: "Right then, we'll be doing things my way from here on in." For example, the shift lever is just stupid, and BMW engineers seem to have made it different just for its own sake. This is a case of style over function.
However, with some 300 horsepower on tap, the 3.0-litre inline-six does have excellent power and BMW deserves some kind of credit for sticking with this engine configuration for so long. Too bad it needs premium gas.
The X3 is also definitely upscale in feel, and I suppose one would get used to the wonky controls eventually. Our tester also had some extras such as heads-up display ($1,500), sport seats, rear-view camera and a huge sunroof. Some of these items, such as heads-up display, are silly and money not well-spent. Others, like hill descent control and regenerative braking, are good ideas. There were only three models in this class, and the X3 did not deserve the win.
Base price $59,400; as-tested price: $66,525
Despite the fact that it was the most expensive, this was my pick. Where I despised the X3, I liked everything about the M-Class. Equally sophisticated, Mercedes' switchgear is actually understandable. Plus, the M-Class has the best fuel economy in this category, by a considerable margin.
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
Base price $37,995; as-tested price: $61,330
This one is an unabashed hot rod, with 470 horsepower to play with. Despite the fact that it has a multi-cylinder shut-off feature to save fuel, the SRT8 is still terrifyingly voracious in town: 17.0 litres/100 km, according to Transport Canada. Yipe!