Fourteen years ago BMW was ahead of its time when it launched the X3 SUV into the prestige car market. Seven years later it introduced the second generation. Now a further seven years on the gen-three X3 from BMW has arrived in Australia.
Four years ago Australian Calvin Luk, already one of BMW’s best regarded stylists took his seat at computer screen to do come up his thoughts on the all-new X3. Yesterday he sat at his screen again and fascinated we Australian motoring journos with quickly drawn strokes to illustrate how he and others reached the finished shape.
In his words he, “took it to the gym” to give the X3 a tougher look than ever before. All-new BMW X3 is longer, wider and taller than before and sits on a greater wheelbase. Indeed, it’s larger than the first generation BMW X5.
The new X3’s bonnet, front guards, and front doors are aluminium to keep weight down. At the same time attention was given to underbody aero, even comprising wind deflectors to alter the flow around the suspension. This attention to detail makes the new model slipperier, therefore more economical and an emitter of fewer emissions.
There’s slightly more space inside than in the superseded X3, the new one can carry four adults with little need to compromise on legroom. Three adults in the back is getting squeezy, but three children will fit with ease.
The rear seat has a 40:20:40 split and the seatbacks can be lowered remotely from the tailgate rather than you having to do so though the back doors, a handy when you’re carting bulky items from JB Home, Bunnings, Ikea and the like.
There’s also handy stowage areas under the boot floor. Inside, one-litre bottles can be carried in the front door pockets and there are numerous other areas for smartphones and the like.
BMW Australia’s product manager, Ryan Begg explained that there’s a lot of technology trickling down from the new 5 Series range into the X3. It also has lifted details in the premium feel from its larger cousin.
Inside the cabin there’s some aluminium trim and clever ‘X’ embossing in interesting places. Gesture control over various functions is likely to be a popular option, as is ambient lighting.
Sports seats are standard in all variants sold in Australia, but there’s the option of going for comfort if you’re more interested in easy touring than getting the best from the little Bimmer.
BMW xDrive20d turbo-diesel produces 140 kW of power and 400 Nm to torque. The six-cylinder xDrive30d has a handy195 kW / and a big 620 Nm of torque. Those who aren’t so keen on diesels can’t the xDrive30i, its six-cylinder turbo-petrol has 185 kW and 350 Nm.
All models run an eight-speed automatic transmission. Manual gearboxes are a thing of the past in this class of vehicle.
While prices are up, a lot more gear has been added to keep the X3 competitive in what is now one of the hardest fought of all automotive sales arenas.
BMW organised a comprehensive drive program out of Cairns airport as part of the Australian launch of the new X3. It was a realistic run that took us through strip-shopping areas, past school zones and sports fields, then into outer suburbs.
We then moved south on the Bruce Highway (M1) for a fair distance before we climbed west into the hills and through the Mareeba area on interesting mountain and plateau roads, then north to Port Douglas.
In other words the sort of driving that would be done by an average family during the week, with a nice weekend run through the tourist areas.
During that almost 300-kilometre drive we sampled the 2.0-litre four-cylinder and 3.0-litre straight-six turbo-diesels, as well as the 3.0-litre turbo-petrol. All had good performance once you were past the turbo lag period – which didn’t last long thanks to the latest in engineering tech.
The huge grunt offered by the big 3.0-litre diesel made light work of the climbing. The smaller diesel wasn’t all that far behind and it’s likely it would provide sufficient performance for all but the revheads. The petrol is lovely and smooth and happy to rev.
Noise intrusion is well masked and the latest BMW X3 sounds and feels like a vehicle from the next class up.
Handling is very good in the traditional BMW manner. All the more so when you remember this is a family oriented SUV, the X3s never looked like getting into trouble.
Ride comfort was fine on smoother roads but rough n’ ready backroads made themselves felt to a greater extent we had anticipated.
All-in-all the all-new X3 is a pleasant SUV – BMW likes to use the term SAV, for Sports Activity Vehicle – that will work well for moderately well-off families with a two or three preteen children.
X3 xDrive20d: $68,900
X3 xDrive30i: $75,900
X3 xDrive30d: $83,900
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local BMW dealer for drive-away prices.