NEW WHEELS

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.

Go! Camp & Drive - - Contents -

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

Con­clu­sion

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.

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