Road Trip - - ROAD READY -

The third gen­er­a­tion BMW X3, the ve­hi­cle which, ac­cord­ing to the Ger­man au­tomaker, ini­ti­ated the mid-size Sports Ac­tiv­ity Ve­hi­cle seg­ment, is a key model for Mu­nich … and for South Africa.

In­tro­duced in 2003, over 1.5 mil­lion have been sold across two model gen­er­a­tions. Last year, X3 sales ac­counted for more than 24% of global X-model sales. With SUV sales still ris­ing, much is ex­pected from the new model.

The new X3 will be pro­duced at the BMW Plant in Ross­lyn, mak­ing it an im­por­tant model for South Africa. BMW has al­ready pumped an ad­di­tional R160 mil­lion into the fa­cil­ity af­ter an ini­tial R6 bil­lion in­vest­ment an­nounced in Novem­ber 2015. These in­vest­ments will raise the pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity of the plant by al­most ten per­cent, from 71,000 units to 76,000 units.

De­signed by Aussie Calvin Luk, the new gen­er­a­tion BMW X3 com­bines strong, mus­cu­lar lines with a sport­ing pres­ence – fla­grantly dis­played by the new X3 M40i, the first M Per­for­mance model in the X3 range. It fea­tures a chunky “three-di­men­sional” kid­ney grille, fog lamps with a hexag­o­nal de­sign, un­der­stated char­ac­ter lines on the flanks, rear light clus­ters with a three-di­men­sional look in full-led guise, a prom­i­nent roof spoiler, and beefy twin ex­haust tailpipes.

Avail­able in Lux­ury Line, xline, and M Sport trim, the X3 now rides on 18-inch wheels as stan­dard (pre­vi­ously it was 17-inch), with op­tions for wheel and tyre com­bi­na­tions up to 21-inch.

In­side, hexag­o­nal forms and pre­cise, bev­elled edges, plus a driver-fo­cused and er­gonom­i­cally op­ti­mised lay­out en­sures a classier and more lux­u­ri­ous am­bi­ence than be­fore, with ma­te­rial qual­ity, fit and fin­ish in the X5 league. Equip­ment op­tions now in­clude three-zone cli­mate con­trol, con­tour and am­bi­ent light­ing, the BMW Dis­play Key, a panoramic glass roof, and acous­tic glaz­ing for the front side win­dows (be­sides stan­dard wind­screen acous­tic glaz­ing). Fit­ted with BMW Con­nected­drive and its as­so­ci­ated sys­tems, the new X3 is in a league of its own com­pared to its ri­vals. BMW Con­nected now also fea­tures ges­ture con­trol of the nav­i­ga­tion and in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem func­tions.

The new X3 is up to 55 kg lighter than its re­spec­tive pre­de­ces­sor mod­els, with a class-beat­ing Cd of 0.29. Its en­gine line-up con­sist of two diesels – a 4-cylin­der unit (140 kw/400 Nm) pow­er­ing the xdrive 20d and a 6-cylin­der (195 kw/620 Nm) for the xdrive 30d, and three petrol units (only two for South Africa) – a 2-litre 4-cylin­der (185 kw/350 Nm) in the xdrive 30i and 3-litre 6-cylin­der (265 kw/500 Nm) in the range-top­ping M40i, all mated to an 8-speed Step­tronic trans­mis­sion driv­ing the xdrive sys­tem.

The new flag­ship, avail­able for just un­der R1 mil­lion (with­out op­tions) is not ex­actly cheap, and with prices rang­ing from R684,200 to R742,800, the same ap­plies for the other mod­els. How­ever, in terms of styling, ap­point­ments, and per­for­mance, it is now closer to the X5 than ever be­fore.

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