Whilst the M40i might be the halo car of the X3 lineup, Damien O’car­roll reck­ons the start is the xdrive30i.

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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.

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