Whilst the M40i might be the halo car of the X3 lineup, Damien O’carroll reckons the start is the xdrive30i.
While it may be easy to get all carried away with the fact that BMW have seen fit to jam the remarkable 265kw inline 6-cylinder turbo engine into the new X3 to create the rather mental M40i, it is actually a vehicle that sits squarely in the middle of the X3 range that truly shows how much of an improvement the new X3 is over its predecessors. Not that the previous X3 was in any way bad (although the same can’t be said of the original...), it’s just that the new one is rather remarkably good. And the xdrive30i is the a shining example of that goodness. Sitting between the entry xdrive20d and the M40i, the xdrive30i packs BMW’S deeply impressive 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine, making 185kw of power and 350Nm of torque in the X3. Of course, an expected 8-speed automatic transmission conveys that power to all four wheels. While the X3 comes standard with an impressively high level of equipment, the example we tested here also came with $16,290 worth of options (including dynamic damper control, an electrically folding tow bar and a premium audio system) taking its price from $99,850 up to $116,140. So it ain’t cheap, but it is very, very good. The new X3 is now larger than the original X5, but surprisingly not much larger than the last X3, however much it may look it. The new car boasts a bolder, squarer look that toughens up its stance, while the interior is sleekly stylish. Beautifully put together from impressively high quality materials, the X3’s interior is a place of high tech conveniences and superb comfort, although I do have to admit to finding the design somewhat dated now. That said, the functionality of the interior is anything but, with BMW’S superb gesture controls for the phone and audio system and thoroughly excellent Driving Assistant Plus semi-autonomous systems both managing to make life on a busy motorway wonderfully less stressful. The X3 is a BMW, of course, so that also means a high level of dynamic ability is expected, and -as far as an SUV can - the X3 delivers here as well. The turbo engine is superbly flexible and powerful, while the chassis is fantastically composed and confident on any surface. And, of course, BMW’S clever xdrive AWD system brings some remarkable competence in the wet. The steering, while precise and nicely weighted, its slightly remote and distant, but this isn’t quite as big as sin as it might be in a 3 Series, so we can live with that in an SUV. The X3 now also looks more like the X5 than ever before and while some may be critical of this, it would only really seem too be a problem for X5 buyers... The xdrive30i is a massively convincing vehicle that BMW asks a good chunk of money for, but offers impressive dynamic abilities, high levels of equipment and that fantastic drivetrain in return. That’s a pretty good deal in our book.