BMW X3 xDrive 30d 2012 review

BMW  X3 xDrive 30d

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.

General impressions

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.

The X3 comes with run flat tyres. In the boot you will find an electric pump. Extra load hooks, a net and a folding basket.

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.

Interior 

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.

Driving impressions

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.

Summary

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.

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Uniondale – Karoo to coast trip

I drove from Cape Town to Uniondale with a Mazda CX5 to take part in the 2012  Karoo to Coast cycle tour.

As expected the CX5 handled the trip with ease. Although I only took one cycle, I could have loaded two in the back with ease together with our luggage.

Average fuel consumption was 7.5 litres per 100km. This included fast highway travel and slow stages through the forest and over the Prince Alfred’s Pass.

The road is being resurfaced near Swellendam, so expect delays at two points. The newly re-developed stretches of the N2 are very good.

A word of caution about Sir Lowry’s pass, one lane outbound is closed for repairs after rock falls. Not a problem, just drive carefully.

Riviersonderend is the first oasis along the way. Great chicken pies to be had at the pie shop.

These Overberg places are villages more than towns. Swellendam is an exception. Worth an overnight stay.

Make a point of just stopping at one of the many picnic stops or gravel turn-offs and breathing in the fresh air and the ambience. Fertile, cultivate rolling fields with a backdrop of mountains.

Hartenbos near Mosselbay is an excellent place to camp or if you want self-catering bungalows. It is an ATKV resort as well. Close to Mosselbay, Glentana and George.

We stayed at the Fairie Knowe hotel in Wilderness. It is on an ‘island’ in the estuary.

Prices are very reasonable out of season. If you are a pensioner, ask for an additional discount. It is about R660 per couple for bed and breakfast.

Pie shop Riviersonderend

Riviersonderend pie shop

Wilderness makes a great base to explore the Garden Route. We did a day trip to Uniondale via Tsitsikamma and the Langkloof and back over Prince Alfred’s pass. A very rewarding day. Although you can do the pass with a normal car, it is better with a slightly raised ride height.

Tsitsikamma village – old inn

Bontebok park just outside Swellendam is a pleasant overnight camping stop. The town itself has excellent guest houses and Witsand in not far away at the mouth of the Breede river. The pont and hotel at Malgas is also worth considering.

The area from Mosselbay to Plettenberg Bay justifies at least a week of exploring. Just the many and varied mountain passes can keep you occupied for days. They are best explored with a SUV or dual purpose bike.

I got cramps on the Karoo to Coast, (http://www.karootocoast.com/) so only managed to complete it in 7 hours 30 minutes. But I will be back next year. A tip from a fellow cyclist. Drink ENO’s when suffering from bad cramp.

I tried it and the relief kicks in within 2 minutes. It is amazing. Doesn’t last for long if you keep pushing those muscles though.

Have fun.

Goodyear EfficientGrip SUV tyre launched

INNOVATIVE TYRE TECHNOLOGY

EfficientGrip SUV is the latest offering in Goodyear’s ‘EfficientGrip’ family, and follows the Wrangler HP All Weather range.

It’s been dubbed the ‘decathlete of the tyre world’ because, unlike high performance road tyres or really rugged off-roaders, EfficientGrip SUV is a jack-of-all-trades.

The new tyre combines the excellent road and braking grip qualities of the EfficientGrip range, while incorporating Goodyear’s innovative FuelSaving technology, better rolling resistance, and a comfortable yet quiet ride on both tar and dirt.

Independent tests against both predecessors and competitors have shown EfficientGrip SUV to deliver:
•    lower fuel consumption
•    lower co² emissions
•    a quieter ride
•    dramatically reduced braking distance

In South Africa, a broad size range (from 16” to 19”) of this all-rounder will be imported by Goodyear for the local market, as well as for OE replacement requirement.

EfficientGrip SUV is produced using the very latest manufacturing techniques and materials.  An advanced tread compound is tightly woven into the tyre’s structure, for example, which uses traction resins to further enhance wet braking; and noise is minimised by utilising an optimised block design and sequence.

The tyre is also lighter, which improves steering precision and handling for drivers.

Renault Megane GTline review

Renault Megane GTline

The shiny deep blue Renault Megane GTline made quite an impression on my neighbours and people on the street. They would stop, look and then smile. Preferred this one to the old model. I do too. Yep, a great looking car.

Driving it brings a smile to your face too.

The Megane GTline is between the “normal” models and the high performance R range. I think a particularly good fit between the two. More than just a cosmetic package. What Renault has managed to do is to make a comfortable car which can perform as well. Think of a French Honda Civic.

At idle you can almost not hear or feel this engine. On two occasions I got out of the car only to realise the engine is still on. It’s that smooth and quiet. The advantage of a turbo petrol engine mounted on thick rubber.

The car has a good sized boot and emergency spare tyre.

Power is a claimed  96kW at 5 500 and torque of 190 Nm at 2 250. Maximum speed is 200km and 0 – 100km/h is 9.7 seconds.

Interior

The improvement in the interior of the new range of Renaults has to be experienced to be believed. Big people may find the front seats a little too sporty (ie narrow). I found them just right. I like the combination of leather and cloth.

A clever design element is red stitching on the leather clad steering wheel and gear lever, complimented by a red stripe on the left of the dash under a mock carbon fibre panel. Looks good.

The GTline has a good amount of soft touch surfaces. There are more than enough nooks and crannies and cup holders.

I found the dials and switches easy to use and in the right places. You wont even need the manual. It all makes sense. Materials seem to be top notch.

Fit and finish is excellent.

Driving Impressions

The GTline feels sure footed. Perhaps because of the 205/55/R17 profile tyres the ride never feels harsh, but at the same time you feel in contact with the road. A brilliantly balanced driving experience.

The clutch and gear selection is excellent. So smooth and easy. you will never miss a gear or stall this car. It has hill hold control which works both ways. Driving is effortless.

If you want to turn on the taps, the turbo blows any cobwebs out of your hair. Real world acceleration and handling is top drawer.

It is both easy and fun to drive.

Iffy points

Nothing about this car screams at you: bad. They have really put together a very good package.

The fuel consumption is never going to best the best precisely because it can be an exciting car to drive which results in heavier fuel consumption. Expect around 8.7litre/100km. You van get it down to 8.2litre/100km average, which I achieved driving to work. But a little spin over Franschoek Pass will take it to 9.2litre/100km. Eina. Renault claims 6.3litre/100km. I wonder where they get those figures?

Good points

It is such a competent all round car. It has good overtaking acceleration and superb roadholding. It feels planted.

It comes with all the safety equipment both passive and active, like ABS, ESP and EBD.

I liked the automatic halogen headlights and wipers.

Summary

Megane GTline gets right something that few cars does. It gets the balance between practical, comfortable motoring and fun, responsive driving just right. French flair perhaps?

Costs

The GTline costs R249 900. That includes 5 Year / 150 000km mechanical warranty and 5 Year / 100 000km service plan.

The baseline 1.6 16v Expression costs R209 900 the diesel 1.6 dCi Dynamique R269 900.

Natalie du Toit Captivated

South African Paralympic swimmer, Natalie du Toit  was handed the keys to a brand new gold Chevrolet Captiva just after she landed from the games..

Gold in colour, in keeping with the performance of this swimming sensation at the 2012 London Paralympic Games where she achieved a haul of three gold and one silver medal, the Chevrolet Captiva LTZ will be du Toit’s personal transport over the coming months as she attends the many official sporting and business engagements.
“Natalie has been a Chevrolet brand ambassador for a number of years now and we are excited to be able to continue this relationship with her as she moves on from her medal winning success in swimming competition to a new era in her career as a world class athlete,” says Chevrolet brand manager Tim Hendon. “She adds an element of excitement to an iconic automotive brand in South Africa which we trust will transport her in style as a South African and international sports celebrity.”