BMW X3 Review
Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) are now so widespread that the traditional saloon car seems headed for the dustbin. Only BMW and other prestige automakers still make them for the executive marketplace. We went to Morocco to drive BMW’s latest SUV offering –
- Robust and sporty exterior styling
- Potent engines
- Good 4x4 grip
- Plastics in lower cabin
BMW has shifted approximately 1.5 million X3s since it was first produced way back in 2003. And the German firm is unstoppable in its bid to keep hold of its desirable image by progressing the 4x4 even more. It’s a near unattainable undertaking to better something that is already outstanding. But BMW has done exactly that - as we discovered driving the new X3 through Morocco all the way into the sand strewn Sahara.
On the Road
A good assortment of powerplants are available on the new X3. These span from the 183PS 20i petrol turbo, to the 190PS 20d oil burner and the 265PS 30d, to the 360PS 3.0 litre M40i. The latter red-hot six-cylinder M40i is the sexiest one on the block, but it’s not the most sensible. In North Africa, we were given the keys to the more down-to-earth xDrive20d xLine. It made sense to get behind the wheel of it because the Bavarian motor firm thinks, despite it being a diesel, it’ll be the most popular-selling X3 in Britain. The renewed 20d X3 is propelled by a 2.0 litre diesel powerplant that has 190 horses under the lid. It’s also hooked up to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Zero to 62mph arrives in 8.0 seconds and the top speed is 132mph.
The BMW X3 rides smoothly across tarmac and it rode almost silently across the sand when we got to the edge of the Sahara, after a long drive on asphalt from Marrakesh. Only the odd crunching of stones flicking up against the underbelly of the SUV interrupted the calm. The union of the 2.0 litre engine, sweet changing automatic ‘box and four-wheel drive makes for an unflustered and confidence-prompting ride. The new BMW X3’s body control is first rate and the chassis is always geared up to attack a bend. In addition, the time-honoured four-cylinder oil-burner rattle only encroaches into the superbly chiselled cabin when you stomp brutally on the gas pedal.
The German motor giant has gone the extra mile in the refinement stakes with this generation of the X3. The vibe in the model’s cabin is one of serenity and classiness. The ambience goes beyond that of the SUVs that rival German premium brand, Audi, makes. Certainly, this X3 is more polished than a Q5 – and even that of the rather puffed up Jaguar F-Pace. BMW has even gone a step further with the leather it uses to wrap the X3’s seats in. A suppler grain has been selected, and you can tell when you’re sat on – and almost in - the pampering hide. Only some inexpensive plastics, almost but not quite out of sight near the footwell, seem inconsistent with the whole picture.
In the car
The xDrive20d xLine is very competent and doesn’t thrust its athletic potential into your face, as the more hardcore 30d and M40i X3s clearly would. The power is subtle, but very much on tap, inducing a relaxing yet self-assured drive. This is especially the case when you venture off-road, safe in the knowledge that you have four-wheel-drive backing you up. The new X3 enables you to munch the miles effortlessly on blacktop in a planted way at all times. There is little to no noticeable body roll, and the steering is composed, yet sharp. But, it really is off the beaten track where the up-to-date X3 shines. Indeed, it has more ability when compared with many of its competitors. The aforementioned four-wheel-drive is adaptive, and this is supported with hill descent control as well as a sturdy build quality.
When it comes to room, the new BMW X3 is generous inside the cabin for a mid-sized SUV. A couple of six-foot tall passengers can kick back behind a similarly tall driver and front seat passenger. And while boot room is practical and useful at 550 litres, or 1600 litres with the seats folded, the load volume is only the norm for the segment of the market that the car sits in. That said; there is a useful storage compartment under the boot floor that can swallow the load cover when it’s not needed.
The xDrive20d xLine, as tested, will do a claimed combined mpg of 54.3, while emitting 138g/km of Co2. This isn’t bad, but it’s by no means the most economical car out there. While navigating the roads and sand dunes of Morocco, we managed to get mid-40s mpg – but we certainly weren’t trying to set any land-speed records. Expect 40+mpg when fully laden and on British soil.
The new X3 is so fresh out of the box that we can yet gauge what its dependability will be like. We’d need a crystal ball for that, and Doris Stokes isn’t around anymore to help. But what we can say is that BMW has earned itself a solid reputation for creating strong and consistent cars. The automaker also uses established tech and drivetrains, so this incarnation of the X3 should prove reliable. Additional assuredness comes in the form of a three-year, unrestricted mileage warranty, which can be lengthened further for pre-set yearly fees.
There can be no doubt that this X3 is as safe and secure as its predecessors. It’s as tough as old boots, and back in 2011 the X3 was granted Euro NCAP’s full five-star safety rating. All X3 versions are kitted out with a generous assortment of safety tackle. This includes: Cornering Brake Control; Dynamic Traction Control; Hill Descent Control and six airbags.
All British models are equipped with Active Guard, which is tech that helps dodge low-speed knocks - it’s fundamentally Autonomous Emergency Braking. Every new X3 also comes fitted with a Thatcham 1 alarm to keep any Bimmer-loving bandits out.