Cruis­ing curbs per­for­mance con­sump­tion

DRIV­ING IM­PRES­SION/ Mark Smyth spent a few days driv­ing a BMW X3 M40i while in the UK

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

Un­der­stand­ably, many peo­ple are up­set about the high cost of fuel at the mo­ment. It is not that long ago that the oil price ex­ceeded $100 a bar­rel with some pre­dict­ing it would dou­ble. Since then the oil price has dropped well be­low those highs, although it has risen again in re­cent months. How­ever, the fuel price has risen and risen and risen again to its cur­rent high level.

This isn’t an ed­i­to­rial about the fuel price though, it is a re­view of the lat­est gen­er­a­tion BMW X3 M40i, a car that boasts a 3.0l six-cylin­der petrol en­gine with tur­bocharg­ing and a 0100km/h time of 4.8 sec­onds. It has been fet­tled by BMW’s M per­for­mance di­vi­sion while hav­ing space for a fam­ily and their para­pher­na­lia.

All of which made it a great choice to drive around the UK, un­til you con­sider that the petrol price there equates to R25.71 a litre. Pos­si­bly not such a great choice then I thought to my­self as we headed out of Heathrow Air­port. It is, of course, a per­for­mance SUV and you only buy one if you un­der­stand that you might have to fill it ev­ery five min­utes, ex­cept that we didn’t.

No sooner had we left Heathrow than we hit the M25, no­to­ri­ous as be­ing one of Europe’s big­gest car parks. Traf­fic slowed and so we trun­dled along at a gen­tle pace be­fore head­ing onto the A3 and then through beau­ti­ful English vil­lages to our des­ti­na­tion.

Oc­ca­sion­ally we got to put the pedal down a lit­tle pro­vid­ing an op­por­tu­nity to lis­ten to the su­perb sound from the en­gine and sports ex­haust, but the weather was good, the scenery great and we were in no rush.

Which is prob­a­bly why we achieved 28.6 miles to the gal­lon. That’s 8.2l/100km. Not bad for a six-cylin­der with 265kW and 500Nm. Over the course of the week­end, the Beemer took us through vil­lages, over the Good­wood car park along gravel tracks and down sin­gle track roads when we didn’t want to sit in the queues to get in and out of the Duke of Rich­mond’s es­tate.

It did a run back to Heathrow and then 100 miles west and still the con­sump­tion re­mained fairly con­sis­tent. In fact by the time I met up with a man who was go­ing to take the car back to BMW UK, the av­er­age was still 8.9l/100km, ex­actly the av­er­age BMW claims. Not bad at all.

I ob­vi­ously need to point out that it wasn’t ex­actly driven as a per­for­mance SUV. We didn’t head for the Welsh hills and the fa­mous moun­tain passes where en­thu­si­asts take their sports cars. We didn’t charge through Cotswolds B-roads or Scot­tish high­lands. It was all rather se­date re­ally, but ev­i­dence of the per­for­mance was al­ways there. The M40i growled when you wanted it to and the en­gine re­sponse was im­me­di­ate when the nav­i­ga­tion said leave the traf­fic and go down a back road.

I even did a bit of mild of­froad­ing when I re­alised a nar­row road to my des­ti­na­tion was no longer ac­ces­si­ble. I turned around, headed down the road and turned onto a farm track. The X3 forded through a small river, along a bumpy track and out the other end, all with­out so much as a flicker of the trac­tion con­trol light. Hardly con­quer­ing the Kala­hari, but more than most X3 own­ers will ever do.

It is dif­fi­cult to give a ver­dict on the car, be­cause I could have done all of that in an X3 2.0l diesel. The M40i is a per­for­mance ma­chine, en­gi­neered to be driven not cruised, but what the ex­pe­ri­ence showed is that it can be both and more.

Peo­ple buy sports cars be­cause they want to know they can if the en­vi­ron­ment is suit­able and the mood takes them. The BMW X3 M40i is the same. It’s a great re­flec­tion on the level of ef­fi­ciency that car com­pa­nies are man­ag­ing to achieve th­ese days, but it is also a great re­flec­tion on the fact that they are man­ag­ing to do so while still de­liv­er­ing real per­for­mance.

Left: The X3 coped with some very nar­row vil­lage roads. Be­low left: It’s hardly hard­core off-road­ing but the X3 coped with a farm road rather well.

The in­te­rior is su­perb with great qual­ity, lots of space and an am­ple level of tech, above. Be­low: £1.47 a litre for un­leaded fuel — that’s R25.71 a litre.

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