All-new X3 goes back to BMW’s roots
For the third generation of its mid-sized SUV, the Bavarian company has decided to go back to its roots and presented a vehicle that is the sportiest of the SUVs that it has ever made. We drove it around Lisbon to experience its sportiness
It is not always that BMW picks out the sportiest model in the range for a global media drive but when it does, not only is it a special car that it wants to show off but it also wants to illustrate the shift in the driivng dynamics of the car. The second generation X3 SUV lost its identity in trying to please all and being the master of none. Especially of the vehicle dynamics traits, especially towards the second half of its life, their is no ambiguity about where the third generation X3 wants to position itself - at the very top of the driver’s car pyramid.
Designed by Hong-Kong-Australian Calvin Luk, who was also responsible for the exteriors of the X1, the X3 falls nicely into the BMW X family look, clearly a sibling to the X1 and X5.
From the front, as compared to its predecessor, it has a more sculpted bonnet, a larger kidney grille, bigger air dams with integrated fog lamps and a
NO AMBIGUITY ABOUT WHERE THE THIRD GENERATION X3 WANTS TO POSITION ITSELF - AT THE VERY TOP OF THE DRIVER’S CAR PYRAMID
larger lower grille. Compared to the third gen SUV, the predecessor feels plain and unexciting. Adding to the modernity are the LED headlamps and fog lamps, as well as active air-flaps, borrowed from the 7-Series. Similarly, the rear is also more expressive, with 3D LED tail-lamps again making the car futuristic.
On the interior, a 12.3in screen constitutes the instrument cluster while a 10.2in screen is in the centre display for the infotainment system and like the new 5-Series, can be controlled by gestures as well as the latest 6th gen Idrive. And the four-colour heads-up display is much larger than before, like on the 5-Series. Interior fit and finish is great, the materials used seem more premium and like on the 5, there is a touch of matte aluminium on most of the switches.
The 3-litre straight six engine on the M-Sport variant features Twinpower Turbo tech with a twin scroll turbocharger, high precision direct-injection
INTERIOR FIT AND FINISH IS GREAT. IN FACT, THE MATERIALS USED SEEM MORE PREMIUM AND SIMILAR TO THAT ON THE NEW 5-SERIES
as well as fully variable valve control and variable camshaft timing. The result is a crisp performer that makes the X3 a seriously quick SUV and it feels and sounds as good as the figures indicate.
On the M40i, the steering has a sporty setup and the suspension is adaptive, meaning that in addition to sports sedan-like handling, the ride quality is not majorly compromised. After driving the car in Lisbon, I had the opportunity to take the new X3 up the Angeles Crest Highway north of Los Angeles and on the mountain road, the more I pushed the car, the more I was surprised. The SUV can be thrown around corners and slowed down without it losing composure and that’s where the biggest difference from the previous generation X3 lies. No doubt the M40i is the sportiest of them all till we get an X3M but the effort from the engineers at BMW has been to make the X3 more sporty throughout the model range.
Although we did get an opportunity to go off-road with one of the X3 models, it would suffice to say that while the X3 is not a true blue off-roader by any stretch of the imagination, its over 200mm of ground clearance, impressive break-over and approach and departure angles of 19.4, 25.7 and 22.6 degress means that it can actually be taken off the tarmac with fording
capability of upto 500mm. Acoustic glass combined with the Harman Kardon Logic 7 surround sound system with 14 high performance speakers and two subwoofers means that the interiors can be tranformed into an opera house or rock concert with crystal clear sound and excellent acoustics.
Of course, we in India will definitely get the diesel engines as well, with both the 2-litre four cylinder and the 3-litre straight six being the obvious choices. Suffice to say that both those will feel sporty as well in the new X3 and one will perhaps have to choose the adaptive suspension to ensure ride quality as the standard tyre size has also gone up from the earlier 17in to 18 inches now.