With the X Range commanding a third of BMW sales, the Munich manufacturer understandably has a lot riding on the latest generation X3. Kyle Kock got to grips with it on the Garden Route.
Although the X5 was the vehicle that marked BMW’s arrival to the luxury SUV market, the X3 was the one that really started to appeal to a broader market outside of just those looking to make a bold statement in the parking lot. Nobody really expects the X3 to be an off-road bruiser, but BMW remains adamant that those seeking adventure off the beaten track will find the X3 handy.
In the metal
The new X3 is definitely grown up – literally. It’s wider, taller and longer than its two predecessors. The edgier designs and sharper edges of the previous generations have made way for a more rounded and bulbous front end. The trademark kidney grille is particularly catching, looking like a pair of ginormous nostrils. The round fog lamps of the first and second iterations have made way for a narrow hexagonal shape while the famous corona ring headlamps are also no longer round and the park lights feature a distinct hexagonal outline. There are two character lines in the profile, running from the front fender through the upper and lower sections of the front and rear doors. This helps accentuate the long bonnet appearance that’s so familiar with the brand and also adds a degree of dynamism. Just like before, the two middle pillars have been darkened with gloss black trim. At the rear, the L-shaped tail lights have a pronounced 3D effect, especially when lit up at night.
On the road
With the 2.0 diesel having been the most popular model at dealerships, it made sense to focus our attention on this particular model at the new X3’s launch on the Garden Route. The volume seller packs 140 kW of power and peak torque of 400 Nm between 1 750 and 2 500 rpm before the torque plateau starts dipping to about 330 at 4 000 rpm. The xDrive20d comes standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission, which is also standard across the X3 range. The 20d’s outputs are more than enough for most driving scenarios, and the automatic transmission shifts seamlessly. On the well-cared for asphalt
The trademark kidney grille is particularly catching, looking like a pair of ginormous nostrils.
of this region, the X3’s on-road prowess is exemplary and the xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive has actually been enhanced to provide more bias to the rear wheels than before. Turn-in is crisp, thanks to the X3’s lower mass, 50:50 weight distribution, and updated electric power steering system. BMW claims that the X3’s 0.29 drag coefficient is class-leading. The cabin is definitely quiet, even as the wind picks up. The diesel engine registers just under 2 000 rpm on the digital instrument panel at 120 km/h and is barely audible along with road noise. At 80 km/h there’s even less of a din, and at 1 500 rpm in top gear there’s pretty good fuel consumption to be had. With 200 km possible using less than a quarter tank of fuel despite liberal throttle application when we drove the X3, you should be able to expect 800 km from pump to pump if you order this model.
Gravel road driving
Regardless of which model you choose and how you spec it, the X3 comes standard with run-flat tyres. While the tyre technology does allow for you to be able to drive a little further in the event of a puncture, they have particularly stiff sidewalls that don’t allow for much absorption. The unit we drove was equipped with a few options and had also been fitted with 20-inch wheels, which are definitely not ideal in this environment. They certainly look stylish, but low profile rubber off the beaten track is something to be avoided. Not because the X3 has poor noise vibration and harshness performance (there’s very few squeaks and rattles to speak of), but because it’s really at home on fast and flowing freeways
Right off a showroom floor it might not ride well if you don’t live near perfect tarmac and plan on driving dirt roads for extended periods, but that’s not the end of the world. Try to order yours with regular tyres. At the very least the X3 will make a capable towing vehicle.