BMW X3 ticks all the right boxes for family wheels
It's sumptuous, spacious and terrific in the bends, writes Phuti Mpyane
Whether it is petrol, diesel powered or a BMW M creation, the BMW X3 formula of a family vehicle balanced for practicality, luxury, performance and all-surface capability hasn’t changed at all.
For the latest generation, which is a facelift and tested here in xDrive 20d M Sport guise, this means a diesel 2.0l four cylinder engine permanently driving all the M Sport-specific wheels. Apart from the cosmetic changes of a bolder and slightly reconfigured front kidney grille and swollen instead of flush tail lights, the benefit of this styling tweak is skin deep starting with how it drives.
If you drive the new and preceding models back to back you will be able to tell the differences immediately. The steering is slicker and the ride quality supple without wallowing in corners and at maintains this softness on bad surfaces too. Prominently improved outside noise insulation adds to make this the X3 generation with the best wafting ability.
Moving inside you’ll find plenty of head, leg and elbow room, so passengers are unlikely to feel short-changed. There's enough room to accommodate a nuclear family and granny.
The X3’s boot is cavernous and it comes with a useful powered tailgate and a net to stop loose items flying about. The rear seats are also foldable by pulling release levers on top of the rears for more options when you need to carry bulkier loads.
Then there’s the typical raft of BMW luxury tech and safety systems, which in the review unit consisted of cruise control, six airbags, automatic wipers and more including my ultimate favourite, active headlights. All contribute to the overall feeling of being a compact premium Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) as BMW terms it.
A freestanding 31.2cm touchscreen display allows for easier access into the menus while the sports seats offer good support. There are also new levels of connectivity to smartphones, including wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and you can also option many other smart tech such as a head-up display.
Being the xDrive20d it doesn’t sound as exciting as its M40i cousin but you’d be impressed with what it can do. Take it on a long journey, and in a hurry just as I did recently, on uneven roads with plenty of switchbacks and you’ll realise this one shouldn't be discounted as tepid.
The M Sport suffix denotes a sport suspension with dampers that firm up when Sport mode is selected, while the eight-speed automatic gearbox with steering paddles hangs onto gears longer to draw out the most from the 140kW and 400Nm engine. It’s rated with 8.0 seconds to 100km/h and a top speed of 213km/h.
The figures aren’t explosive but having a suspension that didn’t struggle to cope with potholes or to pick at a series of sharp bends worked out. The steering weighs up nicely and the overall connectedness the driver has with the car allows you to charge down any road with confidence.
The cherry on top of that layer of comfortable suspension and dynamic driving aptitude is fuel consumption. BMW claims 5.6l/100km on average and though having spent little time commuting about town to prove this assertion it's quite believable considering the test car used an impressive 7.9l/100km on that spirited dash between provinces.
The xDrive 20d M Sport is priced at R1,037,176 and is in the same ballpark as the Porsche Macan in handling prowess.
It's also pricier than the rest of its rivals which include the Audi Q5 40TDI quattro; Mercedes-Benz GLC220d and Volvo XC60 AWD R-Design while the Porsche is marginally costlier but doesn't have a diesel alternative.
But as a package the X3 is right up there with the best and it gets my vote.
Type: Four cylinder diesel
Type: Eight-speed automatic
Type: xDrive all-wheel drive
Top speed: 213km/h (claimed)
0-100km/h: 8.3 sec (claimed)
Fuel Consumption: 5.6l/100km (claimed); 7.9l/100km (as tested)
Navigation, climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, central locking, cruise control, keyless start, xDrive all-wheel drive, stability control, ABS, start-off assistant, hill descent control, six airbags, artificial leather upholstery, multifunction steering wheel, rain sensor, park distance control, drive modes, tyre pressure sensor, electric mirrors
COST OF OWNERSHIP
Warranty: Two years/unlimited km
Maintenance plan: Five years/100,000km
Lease*: R22,131 per month
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport
Looks, drive quality, handling, fuel consumption
It’s on the expensive side
Brilliantly packaged model
****Value For Money
Audi Q5 40TDI quattro S Line, 140kW/400Nm – R897,000
Lexus NX 300 F-Sport, 175kW/350Nm - R1,068,400
Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d, 143kW/400Nm - R952,142
Porsche Macan, 195kW/400Nm - R1,050,000
Volvo XC60 B5 R-Design, 183kW/350Nm - R922,700
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