BMW X3

Top Gear (UK) - - CONTENTS -

More than a third of BMWs sold these days are the X mod­els, and so, in an­tic­i­pa­tion of shift­ing a shed­load of units, BMW’s at last tried a bit with the X3.

It’s built on BMW’s do-it-all lon­gi­tu­di­nal com­po­nents set, the one that started life un­der the 7-Se­ries. That means it has ac­cess to more high-tech op­tions than even the 3/4-Se­ries or X5/ X6, which are the last ma­jor mod­els to move onto that plat­form. It also means the new X3 has sub­tracted some 55kg, de­spite be­ing longer over­all and in the wheel­base than the orig­i­nal X5.

The new in­te­rior, in con­se­quence of all that, is roomy and beau­ti­fully turned out. But then it ab­so­lutely had to be be­cause it has to go up against the gor­geously wrought GLC and Q5. So it’s another car that makes Jaguar’s in­te­rior fur­ni­ture look of the (F-)Pace.

All the UK range is all-wheel-drive. It starts as ex­pected with a 20d, and a 30d. For the frst time in ages there will be a main­stream petrol en­gine too, which must say some­thing about the way the world is go­ing. It’s a 20i. Last but ab­so­lutely not least is the frst M Per­for­mance model.

It won’t sell many, but that’s the one I have a go in frst, be­cause you would too. It’s not some kind of hard-rid­ing track de­stroyer; in fact, the ride is sur­pris­ingly sup­ple. Once you’ve got past the slightly numb steer­ing, you fnd a SUV that’s pretty re­ward­ing to lean on in bends, with pro­gres­sive re­ac­tions and a sense of rear-bias in Sport – a but­ton that taut­ens the damper pro­gramme and changes cen­tre dif em­pha­sis, among other things. The 355bhp petrol six is a bit boomy if you let it labour at low revs, but it puts on a mighty show in the mid-to-up­per reg­is­ter.

The 30d (159g/km CO ) still has so much torque it feels as fast most of the time, helped by su­perb auto shift tim­ing. I also did some mild of-road­ing in that one. It man­aged fairly well. There’s not much ar­tic­u­la­tion, but clear­ance is OK and the trac­tion con­trol ca­pa­ble. It’s sup­posed to wade to 500mm, but I didn’t try: the track was a dust­bowl.

Hordes bought the X3 when it was crap. Ought to do well now it’s good...

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