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Car reviews - BMW - X3 - 2.0d

Our Opinion

We like
Fuel economy, engine flexibility, gearshift quality, handling, interior comfort and quality
Room for improvement
Ride quality, road and wind noise, clunky centre console lid, staid styling

10 Dec 2007

AS THE new entry-level model in BMW’s compact SUV range, the BMW X3 2.0d makes a compelling case for buyers looking for a premium family wagon and all-wheel drive, but who want to minimise their environmental footprint.

Of course, the 2.0d gives away plenty in terms of performance to the bigger-engined 3.0d, but a more appropriate comparison would be against the previous entry-level X3, the 2.5-litre petrol-engined 2.5i.

These two X3s come with essentially the same equipment, yet the 2.0d is some $5600 cheaper (allowing for the automatic transmission, which is a $2600 option in the 2.5i) than its petrol-engined twin.

And the diesel offers far better fuel economy, with a combined official figure of seven litres per 100km compared with 10.1L/100km for the petrol model, while its carbon dioxide emissions are rated at 185 grams per kilometre compared with 243g/km.

So the running cost as well as the purchase cost is much less for the diesel, and the carbon footprint is almost 25 per cent better.

The only downside appears to be performance, as the little diesel takes 9.6 seconds to reach 100km/h from rest while the 2.5-litre petrol takes only 8.9 seconds.

However, our brief drive around the Macedon ranges on the press launch suggests these figures do not tell the whole story.

What the X3 2.0d really offers is a solid mid-range pull that enhances general driving and especially overtaking. That’s where its 340Nm of torque comes in handy, whereas the petrol engines produces only 250Nm.

Not all diesel SUVs are pleasant to drive because of noise, vibration and harshness levels, but the new all-aluminium BMW engine has a pair of balance shafts and scores well in the NVH department.

There is a little harshness at the top-end, but this is not an engine that should be revved hard anyway and at lower and mid-range revs there is very little diesel clatter to be heard, just a comforting chug to go with the solid urge under acceleration.

And the gearing ensures the engine is never really revving hard, especially on Australia’s slow roads. At 100km/h, the engine is ticking over at only 2200rpm.

You do get a bit of road noise, which is not unusual for an SUV, but there was also some accompanying wind noise that we found a little surprising.

BMW rightly prides itself on its driving dynamics and there is no question the handling capabilities of the X3 are very good for an SUV, but we would be happy to trade some of that for a slightly more compliant ride, which we would describe as being on the harsh side.

What we would not change is the excellent six-speed automatic transmission, which provides delightful changes and is a strong match for the engine.

Of course, the interior is typically well-honed and comfortable, with excellent seating, dashboard and steering wheel. Our only criticism would be the centre console lid/armrest, which we found to be rather heavy and clunky.

Overall, though, we believe the new X3 2.0d is an excellent addition to the BMW range and provides plenty of reasons for buyers to abandon petrol and go for diesel.

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