Most of the trouble is getting used to FWD again. Takes a good week to stop being constantly unsettled by the different response to throttle mid-turn.
The previous generation X3 is meh. The new one is better but out of your budget. The older X5 is very good but quite a high maintenance garage princess.
The CX5 is very economical, I got one as a loaner and it handled itself quite good for a FWD, but it is severely underpowered for such a big car.
The Mazda 3 feels good. Sure, plastics are a little cheap (but still tolerable), but the car handles well and the steering is confident. Its powerful enough and very fuel efficient (on par with older Priuses !). I may get the hatchback for my wife in a close future. Its smaller than an SUV, but the hatchback form is very handy and serves almost the same purpose if you don't have two giant Dane hounds to carry in the trunk.
I also had a rental Hyundai or Kia SUV that was surprisingly pleasant to drive (I hate SUVs in general). FWD but fully independent suspension at the rear, you can really feel the difference. I was actually impressed by the quality of what used to be "value" oriented brand. It felt and looked better than Jap.
Last edited by Meeni; 11-14-2012 at 09:56 PM.