This second generation BMW X3 is the epitome of luxury compact SUV motoring in the same niche as the Range Rover Evoque and Audi Q5.
Its lines are pleasing, much more so than the first model. It has a pretty nose and a functional rear. The middle bit is a little bland to me.
X3 comes in many versions. We drove the xDrive 30d. An awesome piece of machinery. BMW xDrive is able to recognise difficult road surfaces through sensors in the DSC chassis control system, and react immediately.
The 30d’s fuel economy is only marginally worse than the 20d’s according to reports and BMW’s own figures. They claim 6litres/100km, but you will not come close to that figure in real life.
Power is claimed to be 190kW at 4 000 and torque an enormous 560Nm from 2 000.
I like the dark “ceiling” trim contrasted with the light tan trim of the bottom half of the cabin. It is very pleasing on the eye and calming. Pretty smart too.
My wife loved the seats. Not only are they highly adjustable, but they are just right. Not to hugging, but highly supportive.
One of the biggest criticisms of the first-generation X3 was its overly hard ride, and BMW has given this car a far more compliant set-up.
There is a good size boot which has a practical shape. The floor has two rails and four movable hooks are provided.
Despite the extra height and weight that it carries, it drives like a normal car, consumes fuel at a similar rate and emits a comparable level of CO2.
This is the first car I have driven with a heads up display. It projects speed and cruise control settings on the windscreen in front of you. The system works well.
The interior is smart. It has got all the goodies you could reasonably want.
I personally loved the two tone interior. Above the sill it is all black. Below tan. There is a huge panoramic window in the roof, if fitted as it is a R18k optional extra. The front part of which tilts up.
The cabin is very cosseting. ‘The seats are highly adjustable to the point that thigh support is extendible. All in all, almost as comfortable as the seats of the Subaru XV tested last month. You will be able to adjust your seat and steering wheel to a comfortable position no matter your size.
The controls all feel good and solid. The interior feels like a cockpit. It looks as if the car can fly. Even the new version of the i-drive is not too bad. The switchgear and instruments are shared with other BMW models, but the X3’s blend of a tall dashboard built around a central display screen and its relatively upright seating position work together.
The driver and front seat passenger areas are intelligently divided based on functionality.
One gripe I have is the fatness of the steering wheel. It is just too fat or thick for my liking although I generally prefer fatter wheels.
The second generation X3 has much more interior space.
The X3 has 3 performance settings. Normal, which is pretty sprightly. Sport which tightens up the suspension and increases the revs by about 500rpm and quickens the change points. And then there is Sport + mode. For racing.
I drove 95% of the time in normal mode. Handling and road holding is top drawer. Body roll is well under control. The x-drive system splits torque 40:60 front: rear. It’s no rock hopping 4×4, but it handles gravel and even good jeep tracks. Ride hight is not a strong point in the off-road department.
All X3s except the base model now come standard with eight-speed automatic boxes and stop/start technology.
Stop at a traffic light and the engine switches off automatically to save fuel. Press the accelerator and it starts again. Works well and after a day you won’t even notice it any more. The X3 is very much a drivers car. Roadholding and handling are impeccable.
Cost of the X3 30d is R642 400. As tested add R18 800 for the panoramic roof, R14 700 for the head-up display, R7 900 for connectivity pack and R22 000 for the GPS. So the car cost in excess of R700 000. That is more than double the Subaru XV. The thing is, the XV will go where the X3 cannot.
The good news is that you can buy a base model X3 without any enhancements for R469 000, for the xDrive20i standard.
You can easily add R100 000 to the cost of your car with a few accessories, so be careful.
All X3 series cars come with a 5 Year/100 000km Motorplan, non-contributing service and maintenance contract.