Car reviews - BMW - X3 - range
Matured design, peppy diesels powerplants, in-cabin technology, clever storage solutions, fit and finish
Room for improvement
Pricey options, lacklustre petrol engine, vague steering feel
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2 Nov 2017
By TUNG NGUYEN
SUVs are now clearly the automobile of choice for Australians, accounting for nearly 40 per cent of all new car sales so far this year, with BMW set to capitalise on the new trend thanks to the introduction of its new-generation X3 mid-size crossover.
Due to take on the likes of the Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC and Volvo XC60, BMW reckons its third-gen X3 will overtake its X5, X1 and 3 Series to become its best-selling model.
Fast-tracked to Australia, BMW offers its new X3 in three flavours – 20d, 30i and 30d – costing $68,900 before on-roads, $75,900 and $83,900 respectively.
With two diesel engines and one petrol powerplant on offer from launch, BMW’s new X3 has to step up its game in terms of drive refinement, interior technology and luxury, but can the Bavarian mid-size crossover deliver on all fronts?
BMW’s new-generation X3 sure has big shoes to fill considering its predecessor is still selling like hotcakes after nearly seven years in service.
Competing in the booming mid-size SUV segment against premium and highly-polished offerings including the Audi Q5, Volvo XC60, Mercedes-Benz GLC and Land Rover Discovery Sport means BMW needs to deliver an excellent X3 to remain in the contention.
We are happy to report then, that the Bavarian brand has produced a solid, refined and well-packaged mid-size crossover that will tick a lot of boxes for buyers and should swell the brand’s sales as expected.
Wearing an all-new exterior design penned by Aussie-born Calvin Luk, the third-gen X3 may look like a subtle styling evolution from its predecessor, but look closer and the less-fussy aesthetic exudes class and purposeful stance.
However, for those not satisfied with the standard xLine look, buyers can opt for an M Sport Package that sharpens exterior styling with a bodykit and new wheels, while Dynamic Damper Control and tweaked interior finishes are also added.
BMW has opted to fast-track the X3 to the Australian market just one month after its international launch, meaning only three choices are available initially – the 20d and 30d oil burners, and 30i turbo-petrol.
Kicking the range off at $68,900 before on-roads is the 140kW/400Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel 20d, followed by the 185kW/350Nm petrol 30i for $75,900, before topping out with the $83,900 30d and its creamy 195kW/620Nm turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel.
All versions at launch make use of BMW’s xDrive torque-splitting all-wheel-drive system and quick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission.
Dynamically, the new X3 is excellent on and off road, delivering on BMW’s strong driving credentials with a communicative chassis, taut transmission and compliant ride.
However, one element we’d like to see improvement is the vague-feeling, electric-assisted steering, which felt especially numb on loose road surfaces at higher speeds.
The steering can be adjusted though, as well as throttle response and transmission settings, with the in-built drive mode selector, switchable between modes including Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport.
Our pick of the bunch though, is easily the range-topping 30d thanks to its maximum torque available from 2000-2500rpm for effortlessly brisk performance with just a prod of the right pedal.
The 30d also comes generously equipped with a 12.3-inch high-resolution multi-function digital instrumentation display, leather interior, keyless entry, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, surround-view cameras and 20-inch wheels.
The 30i also shares an identical equipment list, however we found the petrol powerplant – which produces the least amount of torque out of the three – a tad lacking when hauling the 1715kg X3 around the winding roads of far-north Queensland.
For those that can’t quite stretch the budget the base 20d is also an admirable performer thanks to its punchy powerplant that delivers peak torque from 1750rpm all the way to 2500rpm.
Although equipment levels aren’t quite as generous as its higher-spec siblings, the 20d still comes packed with head-up display, heated side mirrors, automatic headlights and wipers, 19-inch wheels, three-zone climate control, sports seats up front and a 10.25-inch iDrive6 touchscreen infotainment system loaded with satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and 20GB of hard-drive storage space.
We’d also option in the Innovations Package to future-proof in-cabin tech for $3250 on the 20d though, which is standard on 30i and 30d, and adds the 12.3-inch digital instrumentation display, keyless entry, adaptive LED headlights and the surround-view cameras.
However, a quick browse of the options list reveals some tech that should have really been included as standard, including Apple CarPlay compatibility for $623, BMW’s much-touted gesture controls for $450 and front seat heating for $700.
Inside the X3, the mid-size SUV owes more than a little to the new-generation 5 Series sedan and wagon launched earlier this year, sharing the same two-tiered climate and audio system controls, paddle-style gear selector and gloss black surfaces.
Fit and finish, like on its large sedan sibling, is excellent, with each touch point feeling suitably premium and first-rate in hand.
Rear seats are also roomy enough for three adults and the second row pews can be folded to increase boot space from 550 litres to 1600L.
We really appreciate the attention to detail in the stowage area too, with the boot floor sporting gas struts to stay upright when lifted, buttons in the boot to easily fold the rear seats and a specially designed underfloor space to store the rear cargo blind.
Overall, BMW’s X3 offers a blend of sporty driving characteristics and the practical space of an SUV – two things we did not expect to enjoy together in a single package.
The capable diesel engines, high levels of equipment and technology, and classy look also help sell the X3 as one of the best premium SUV offerings on the market, and with more variants to come – including a cheaper rear-drive version and M Performance-fettled variant – we reckon BMW are onto an absolute winner with its new multi-purpose mid-size crossover.
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