Car reviews - BMW - X3 - xDrive30i
Upmarket dashboard, large boot, brilliant automatic calibration, fluent steering, decent ride, fantastic tyres make for grippy cornering
Room for improvement
Ultimately too heavy for this 2.0-litre engine, extremely flat and basic rear seat, handling good only for an SUV
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26 Mar 2018
SOMETIMES a car-maker can sense a victory is coming. Despite being in the final year of its lifecycle, the previous-generation X3 surpassed both the newer X1 and traditional 3 Series sedan to become the best-selling BMW here in 2017.
This third-generation X3 only landed locally in the last two months of last year, finally perfuming BMW showrooms with that sweet smell of success, and it will now be here to deploy its full sales potential over an entire calendar.
BMW has certainly played it safe with the formula, opting for a careful styling evolution that surely will not upset premium medium SUV buyers.
Meanwhile this X3 xDrive30i will be expected to become a stronger seller in what BMW hopes will be a model range that shifts in even greater volumes in 2018. Time to taste – rather than just smell – if success really does deserve to come to fruition.
Price and equipment
With the X3 xDrive30i priced from $75,990 plus on-road costs, this 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder model grade costs $7000 more than the X3 xDrive20d, but $8000 less than the X3 xDrive30d, which utilise turbocharged diesel four- and six-cylinder engines respectively.
Standard across the range are a power tailgate, colour head-up display, electrically adjustable front seats, tri-zone climate control, digital radio and satellite navigation, however from there it is the 30i petrol and 30d diesel that share specification, adding several features over the 20d.
These include 20-inch alloy wheels (up from 19s), keyless auto-entry with push-button start, full leather trim, a 12.3-inch colour driver display and 10.25-inch centre touchscreen, LED headlights with automatic-adaptive high-beam, adaptive cruise control with lane-keep assistance, 360-degree camera, auto reverse-park assistance, and front (rear already standard) cross-traffic alert.
Meanwhile further options include – in descending price order – a panoramic sunroof ($3000), a Comfort Package incorporating ambient lighting, woodgrain trim, electrically adjustable lumbar support, 12-speaker audio and front seat heating ($2800) plus, multi-mode adaptive suspension dubbed Dynamic Damper Control ($1900). The latter two really should be standard at this price.
With a classy dashboard encompassing silver and piano-black highlights, a smaller steering wheel, and topped with stitched soft-touch surfacing that even surrounds the middle panel, BMW has visibly addressed one of the shortfalls of the old X3 with this properly premium new interior design.
While BMW has been playing catch-up on competitors, however, other rivals have also streamed further ahead. What once was a benchmark infotainment system, now called iDrive6, has fallen behind the more intuitive system in the Volvo XC60.
In this US-made model, features remain buried beneath sub-menus, whereas the Swede’s swipe-once-then-click interface is simply sweeter.
That Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity is a $623 option – standard on its rival – is a further sign of a former leader resting on its laurels, although the ‘one shot’ voice control for navigation is brilliant.
There is also an austerity about the passenger accommodation in the xDrive30i that presents as a contrast from the lush Volvo, and dips below from what should be a premium medium SUV. The front seats are firm and supportive, but the back bench is flat and unyielding, while being positioned a fraction too low to the floor. Rear legroom is merely average, although headroom is outstanding.
Ground is made up behind the practical 40:20:40 split-fold backrest, however, with the 550-litre boot proving 45L larger than an XC60 and further offering a handy, lined underfloor storage compartment – and complete with a gas strut to hold up the floor cover. For cargo carrying ability, the new BMW X3 is one of the most impressive vehicles available for around this pricetag.
Engine and transmission
The ZF eight-speed automatic transmission has always been brilliant in every BMW model it is installed in. But obvious tuning upgrades have in the X3 xDrive30i turned a slick auto into a flawless one. Particularly in Sport+ mode, where the auto downshifts assertively under brakes and always picks a correct ratio, the tuning of this transmission is now Porsche-grade.
Thankfully so, too, because the 185kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder needs all the might it can muster from its partner. This engine is likewise a keen, spirited performer in other BMW models such as the rear-wheel-drive 330i Touring. However, with a kerb weight of 1715kg, this all-wheel-drive X3 xDrive30i also piles on 150kg over that similarly priced wagon.
This medium SUV still manages to claim healthy 6.3-second 0-100km/h performance, but the turbo four-cylinder regularly feels like it is working hard to achieve it, and occasionally when overtaking or on a hillclimb it can feel breathless. At least it remains refined and aurally appealing, though.
Meanwhile claimed combined-cycle fuel consumption of 7.6 litres per 100 kilometres appears competitive, however in the real world the figure blew out to 11.5L/100km on test. On paper a 330i Touring claims to be 1.5L/100km thriftier and yet it also manages a 5.9s 0-100km/h, though at least it should be pointed out that in the context of a heavyweight SUV segment this German-badged model is at least one of the lightest and most frugal options available – so kudos to BMW there.
Ride and handling
Where the multi-mode adaptive suspension in a BMW 5 Series large sedan can feel wallowy in Comfort mode and jittery in Sport, the X3 equivalents prove far better balanced despite the higher centre of gravity in this tall SUV.
The xDrive30i rides with a fine blend of comfort and control across its diverse span of modes, with only the low-profile, run-flat 20-inch tyres occasionally clunking or thumping over big potholes.
And even the firmest Sport+ mode works on a bumpy country road, quelling mid-corner irregularities admirably.
The steering is also excellent, with a quick and tight ratio allowing a driver to keep hands pinned at 9-and-3 around town while negotiating successive 90-degree turns, for example.
The highlight of the new X3’s driving dynamics, though, is its new-for-2017 Bridgestone Alenza tyres, which are outstanding. The way it keys this BMW into the road, helping the chassis feel more agile and alert than its kerb weight would suggest, is fantastic.
What it cannot do is feed in the syrupy balance and fleet-footed movements of – you guessed it – a 330i Touring, with the xDrive30i feeling wooden once beyond the tyre’s grip level.
Safety and servicing
Six airbags (including dual-front, front-side and curtain), ABS, electronic stability control (ESC), front and rear parking sensors with 360-degree camera, blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning with lane-keep assistance, front- and rear-cross traffic alerts, and forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking (AEB) are all standard.
The BMW X3 received a score of five stars and 35.4 out of 38 possible points when tested by Euro NCAP in 2017, but it is yet to be tested by ANCAP.
BMW Service Inclusive package offers check-ups over five years or 80,000km – with annual or variable intervals – at a cost of $1440 for basic coverage or $4250 for ‘plus’ coverage that further includes front/rear brake disc and pad replacement, and wiper replacements.
The BMW X3 is a better medium SUV than it has ever been before, but the xDrive30i is perhaps not the pick of the range. For its equipment alone, this model grade is worth the extra over the xDrive20d below it.
However, the xDrive30d is almost certainly worth the extra cost for its extra torque (all 620Nm of it!) that hands it a half-second-faster 0-100km/h claim than this 350Nm xDrive30i, all the while also being more frugal to the tune of 1.6L/100km.
In terms of steering, ride quality (when optioned with adaptive suspension), and handling, any new X3 is as decently impressive as it is with its slick new dashboard and sizeable luggage capacity.
If only the rear seat was delivered to the same standard, and if only some extra equipment (such as premium audio and heated seats) were standard, it would be a home run.
As it stands, this is a good new-generation BMW X3 and a good xDrive30i model grade, and it should do just enough to be able to sell in good numbers within the premium medium SUV class.
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