Edmonton Journal

BMW X3 gets new, chiselled look

Compact diesel crossover holds onto the luxury

- Lesley Wimbush Driving

Every once in a while, I’m asked if I find myself changing to suit whichever vehicle I happen to be driving that week, a sort of man-to-machine anthropomo­rphic transferen­ce of personalit­y characteri­stics. Well, sure — sometimes it’s inevitable. While I’ll never be able to pull off the sort of casual entitlemen­t necessary to look at home in a MercedesBe­nz S-Class, there’s a sense of well-being that comes over me when comfortabl­y ensconced in a luxurious vehicle. Imagining I’m part of its fortunate demographi­c is irresistib­le.

And so it goes with this week’s tester, the 2015 BMW X3 xDrive28d.

Understate­d in pristine white, the X3 eschews the usual swoops and curves of its segment for knife-sharp lines and clean edges. Refreshed for 2015, the X3 wears a somewhat angrier face, featuring a more chiselled jawline, and wider headlights framing a re-worked version of the twin-kidney grille.

It’s a good-looking vehicle, although nothing to inspire envious second looks. But I can’t help the sigh of contentmen­t that escapes every time I climb into its well-crafted cabin. It’s the same feeling that came from being able to afford my first well-made pair of shoes — that sense of being well cared for.

Although it debuted as a compact SUV, the X3 has grown nearly to the size of the original X5, its larger sibling.

Past X3s had cabins that were a little on the drab side, but for 2015 it has received a new look of interior richness. What was previously armoured in hard plastics is now clad in high-quality, soft-touch surfaces.

It’s not an overtly luxurious setting, but there’s an elevated sense of quality in the fragrant, stitched leather and brushed aluminum pieces. Front seating is comfortabl­e and high, with great visibility and decent leg and headroom. The intrusion of the driveline tunnel restricts rear space to two comfortabl­e seats, or three in a pinch.

Cargo space of 550 litres expands to 1,600 L when the 40/20/40-split rear seats are folded down. That space is easily accessed by a liftgate that opens and closes automatica­lly when the keyholder waves a foot under the rear bumper.

There’s a host of on-board safety equipment included in my tester’s optional Technology Package, including lane departure, blind spot and collision warning systems, and a high-beam assistant which courteousl­y dims the high beams when vehicles approach.

Of course, one of the most important features of this particular vehicle lies under the hood. Like the MercedesBe­nz GLK and Audi Q5 before it, the BMW X3 has joined the ranks of Teutonic luxury SUVs to offer an optional engine. Oil burners, once reviled for their stink and clatter, have steadily gained favour as they’ve grown increasing­ly refined. With the current emphasis on low emissions and fuel efficiency, the new diesels have gained a certain cachet among the more eco-conscienti­ous.

While not as powerful as either of its closest German rivals, the X3’s 2.0-L twinturboc­harged four’s output of 181 horsepower and respectabl­e 280 pound-feet of torque move it along briskly enough. It’s mated to an eight-speed transmissi­on whose smooth operation is largely responsibl­e for the X3’s quick responsive­ness, while keeping the rpms in a sweet spot low enough to maximize fuel efficiency. Maximum torque is available as low as 1,750 rpm, and the diesel’s 7.2-second zero-to-100-km/h time is only marginally slower than the gasoline-powered model’s 6.2.

Very little of the typical diesel clatter makes its way into the cabin; it’s only with the window down that one is reminded that this is, indeed, an oil burner.

The X3 is one of the sportier vehicles in its segment, with firm and tight handling. BMW’s xDrive all-wheeldrive system is standard, varying the torque from front to rear, or to outside wheels to provide more stability during tight turns.

Surprising­ly, there are no paddle shifters, although there’s a manual setting for the gear selector. I tend to use those only during the winter months, when the ability to manually downshift is a boon on slippery descents. This particular shifter takes a bit of getting used to; initially I found myself uselessly revving in Neutral until its rather unique operation became more intuitive.

There are three selectable drive modes: Sport, which quickens both steering and transmissi­on shifts but also cancels the Start/Stop function, Normal, and Eco Pro, which features an encouragin­g display of the amount of fuel saved.

BMW claims best-in-segment fuel consumptio­n numbers over their diesel competitor­s, with official ratings of 8.6 L/100 km city and 6.9 L highway, with an overall 7.9 L combined, which compares well to the X3 xDrive28i’s ratings of 11.1/8.4/9.9. Over a week of mixed driving, I averaged 8.1 L/100 km, while mostly operating in Normal mode.

The price for the diesel engine is an extra $1,700 over a similarly configured gasoline model. Whether it’s worth it or not depends on whether you drive enough to make up the difference — and whether gasoline continues to dip while diesel rises. Overview: Diesel technology in a compact luxury crossover Pros: Great fuel economy, nicely made Cons: Cramped rear seat Value for money: Dependent upon diesel pricing What I would change: Add paddle shifters How I would spec it: Base X3 xDrive 28d, which features plenty of standard equipment

 ?? Photos: Lesley Wimbush/ Driving ?? The BMW X3 gets bigger — it’s now almost as big as the X5 — and more luxurious for 2015. The exterior sports a few sharp edges and the interior gets a nice soft upgrade.
Photos: Lesley Wimbush/ Driving The BMW X3 gets bigger — it’s now almost as big as the X5 — and more luxurious for 2015. The exterior sports a few sharp edges and the interior gets a nice soft upgrade.
 ??  ?? Inside, the 2015 BMW X3 28d features quality stitched leather and plenty of room up front.
Inside, the 2015 BMW X3 28d features quality stitched leather and plenty of room up front.

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