The BMW X3 first came on sale in 2004, and really was quite ahead of its game. It took Audi, Mercedes and Jaguar much longer to join this competitive badge snob-orientated market.
The German manufacturer wants the X3 to be known as a “Sports Activity Vehicle”, and has reworked it for 2018 with tweaked looks, new technology and improved refinement.
BMW has stuck to its usual trick and kept exterior changes at a minimum, instead opting for an evolutionary design. There are new LED headlights, an active air flap for efficiency and new fog lights. At the back there are redesigned rear lights that you can upgrade to LEDs and twin tailpipes on all models. On the inside, BMW has redesigned its smart iDrive system while also adding a new steering wheel, improved driver assistance aids and even more luxurious interior materials.Enquire now on a new BMW X3
We tested the X3 xDrive30d which comes with a 3.0-litre twin turbo diesel which kicks out 260bhp and a huge 620Nm of torque. It accelerates from a standstill to 60mph in just 5.6 seconds and onto a top speed of 149mph. It feels punchy on the road as well as off it, although it will only account for 15 per cent of sales.
The most popular X3 is likely to be the xDrive20d that will account for 30 per cent of sales. If ultimate performance is what you’re after, you’re best waiting until next year when the X3 xDrive M40i comes on sale. It will feature a 3.0-litre turbo-charged petrol engine that produces 355bhp and will get from 0-60mph in a sprightly 4.8 seconds.
Ride and Handling
Our first drive of the X3 was on an international launch, which surprisingly involved little on-road driving. That said, the xDrive30d was extremely impressive on the rough stuff. It offered plenty of grip in tough conditions and the hill descent control dealt brilliantly with tricky inclines.
You can instantly notice the refinement improvements, too. New acoustic glass works well to keep noise down and reduce the sound of the diesel clatter.
It’s also pleasingly sporty when the time comes, being surprisingly fun for an SUV, helped by the twisty Portuguese test roads we got to try it out on.
Interior and equipment
The best thing about the new X3’s interior is probably the new iDrive system, which is an absolute joy to use and one of our favourite infotainment systems available. As well as recognising voice and gesture commands, it offers incredible levels of connectivity with live weather updates and in-car WiFi. It can even share journey information with your contacts – if asked.
Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloys, three-zone air conditioning, ambient lighting, Bluetooth, heated front seats and BMW ConnectedDrive that comprises navigation and online services.
It doesn’t compromise on practicality either, with 550 litres of boot space with the seats up, and 1,600 litres once you fold them. You even get a handy compartment underneath the boot floor for the parcel shelf.
The X3 starts from £37,890, which prices it comparatively to rivals from both Audi and Mercedes – the Audi Q5 starting at £37,450 and the Mercedes GLC starting from £37,945. It also comes full of kit, although it does have pricey options, so you definitely need to think carefully about which boxes you are ticking.
The engines are surprisingly efficient, too. Even the powerful X3 xDrive30d manages 49.6mpg on the combined cycle and emits 149g/km of CO2.
The X3 is a great all-rounder. It performs well and defined on the road, and off it, its interior is luxurious, it is practical and it’s good looking. But, most importantly for some, it is fun to drive. The new X3 model is an great improvement and surely the car to beat in the sector, the X3 sets a very high bar.