When BMW created the first X3 back in 2003, sales went through the roof, and along came a whole host of mid-size luxury SUVs from rival manufacturers who wanted in on the game too. The result, fourteen years on, is a total 1.5 million X3s sold since the car’s launch and an intensely crowded marketplace becoming more so year on year.
So for the latest X3 to live up to the reputation of its previous iterations and outsell the competition, it needs to be good. Better than good. And it is. While it doesn’t look wildly different from the last model, with BMW’s styling gurus opting for a more evolutionary than radical design, don’t be fooled – this is a whole new car.
Based on the platforms of the superb 5- and 7-Series saloons, this X3 is the biggest model yet; it’s a fraction longer and wider than the first-iteration X5. Unlike some of its competitors in the mid-size SUV market, it’s been designed from the ground up for genuine off-road capability, without compromising on the unmistakable driving finesse BMW owners expect from the brand.
Here’s why you’ll want one:
Subtle but significant styling tweaks give the new X3 an imposing presence on the road. Contours flow the length of the body accentuating the rear wheels and creating a rugged, athletic profile from the side. New, more upright headlamps inspired by the smaller X1 sit aside bulging kidney grills to make for a bold appearance faced head-on. From the rear, sharper taillights are reminiscent of those of the stunning Alfa Romeo Stelvio, with sporty-looking twin tailpipes ratcheting up the bling factor.
This model is the first in several years to be offered with a choice of both diesel and petrol engines, thanks to the growing shift in consumer demand towards environmentally friendly vehicles. The best-selling option is still likely to be the 2.0L, 190bhp diesel with the 265bhp 3.0L version following close behind, but they’re joined in the line-up by a 2.0L turbo petrol four-cylinder engine and coming soon, a range-topping 360bhp 3.0L straight-six. That one will be badged as the M40i, the first M car in the X3 line-up, and it’s sure to be an exhilarating drive.
For now, though, both the diesel and petrol versions currently on offer deliver ample performance for the typical X3 buyer; even the entry-level 2.0L is powerful enough to take the X3 from 0-100kph in less than eight seconds. All the X3 models also now come with BMW’s renowned xDrive intelligent all-wheel-drive system.
Refinement was a big priority for BMW this time around; the designers went to great lengths to ensure that, unlike others in this segment, noise levels in the X3 remain low enough to talk at a whisper even at motorway cruising speeds.
Then we get to the handling. Throw the X3 into a fast corner for the first time, and you’ll certainly be surprised by the lack of body roll for a car this size; a revised a chassis setup gives you way more control than in previous versions. All in all – this is an SUV that’s equally focussed on performance as versatility.
The X3 comes bristling with all kinds of new tech designed to make life as a driver safer and easier than ever. First and foremost, comes the intelligent voice and gesture/touch controls, lifted from the flagship 7-Series model, allow drivers to control phone call or the navigation system by simply waving a hand or saying the word.
Buyers also get BMW Connected integration, which links the car’s infotainment system with your smartphone, syncing with your calendar and showing the addresses of your upcoming appointments on a destinations list. It’s a clever piece of kit; it even stores information about your daily habits, so it can give you the traffic notifications you need without being prompted to do so.
That’s not all. The system even comes with an integrated SIM-card allowing it to send SMS, so if there’s a delay up ahead and you’re going to be late, the X3 can automatically text whoever you’re meeting and let them know.
BMW has clearly pulled out all the stops to ensure the new X3 doesn’t disappoint. It’s a go-anywhere, do-anything car – and from €55,000, it’s priced competitively enough to trounce its rivals.