Review: BMW X3 xDrive 30d

Review: BMW X3 xDrive 30d
Review: BMW X3 xDrive 30d

A comprehensive refresh eases the X3 back up among the front-runners

When a car is as good as the BMW X3, new-model changes tend to be gradual rather than momentous. With more than 1.5 million gen-one and gen-two X3s sold so far over its 14-year cycle, you can guess at the level of care BMW will have taken with the third-generation model.

Which is what we’re looking at here. At first sight it may look like an understandably conservative wipe-over. In fact, there are changes on many fronts: visual, dynamic, connectivity – and texture.

Oh yes, texture. You can get a new X3 with Fineline open-pored wood and interior trim highlights made from something glorying in the name of Aluminium Rhombicle. Whatever that might be, you’ll find it hard to resist touching these exotic materials over and over again. You can actually feel the Fineline grain contours on the dash and door tops.

BMW X3 xDrive 30d SE

Price: £44,380
Engine: 3.0-litre, six-cylinder, turbo diesel
Power: 261bhp
Torque: 457lb ft
Gearbox: 8-spd automatic
Kerbweight: 1895kg
Top speed: 149mph
0-62mph: 5.8sec
Fuel economy: 49.6mpg
CO2 rating: 149g/km

When so many cars are so well made, this is the type of small detail that makes the difference. They help to create a lovely ambience in the X3, especially one fitted with a panorama roof, leather upholstery and convincing ‘Sensatec’ double-stitched pleather.

It’s not just texture, mind. The underlying stuff works too. The seats are very comfy, and the back ones can be had with an optional recline function that’s made possible by the five-centimetre extension to the new X3’s wheelbase.

Despite that stretch, the X3’s footprint and general dimensions have hardly changed. Nor has the 50:50 front/rear weight distribution. Mods to the suspension have been made, promising a useful step ahead in chassis performance both on and off the road where the X3 will try its hand with a 204mm ride height, decent approach and departure angles and a 500mm wading capability.

Engine choices run from a 181bhp 2.0i turbo petrol four to a 355bhp 3.0 litre six-cylinder M40i, sandwiching two diesels: a 188bhp 20d four and a 30d six whose torque has been raised from 413lb ft in the previous iteration to 457lb ft in the new one, and power from 254bhp to 261bhp. That’s the model we tested.

All the new X3s have eight-speed paddle-shift auto gearboxes, and they’re all lighter than the old models, by up to 55kg. The 30d now does the 0-62mph dash a tenth of a second quicker, at 5.8 seconds, and its top speed has increased from 144mph to 149mph. More slippery bodywork helps with the overall efficiency, and the new, taller grille features active radiator vanes.

The old X3’s slightly droopy look has been subtly banished by the new roofline, flatter wheelarch tops and a new waistline. The more dynamic look is backed up by a new agility that encourages drivers to hurl the X3 around as they might a hatchback. The impressive M40i version will show it up on incision, but there are no qualms about the X3’s baseline ability. Your confidence rises with each new mile put under the wheels. The balance is easy, the body roll nicely constrained, the ride compliant and the steering predictable and accurate.

We’d definitely recommend adding BMW’s variable damper control if you want to properly feel and experience its abilities, which are deeper than most in the crossover class both on and off the road. Adaptive four-wheel drive, hill descent control and a sense of strength are all part of its armoury.

So is refinement, assisted by an acoustic windscreen and in the 30d by the petrol-like civility of BMW’s 3.0 litre diesel. There’s an odd torpor below 1500rpm, which is replaced by an effortless zest once that figure is exceeded. You might find that characteristic annoying in a manually-gearboxed car, but the clever eight-speed auto you actually get neatly works around this potential glitch.

The level of standard equipment in SE, xLine and Sport specs looks reasonable enough, with traffic-enabled sat nav, a reversing camera, some online services and LED headlights all as standard, but many will still be tempted by the desirable toys on the options list. These include BMW’s praiseworthy head-up display, those variable dampers, a battery of parking aids, panoramic roof, configurable digital instruments and a loadbay rail system. You’ll get up to 1600 litres of cargo in the boot when the 40:20:40 backrests drop flat. Seats in place, the number drops to a still acceptable 550 litres.

The expected array of electronic protection features, including lane departure warning, city brake and rear collision warning, is in place along with many autonomy-related features. This X3 has the potential for high levels of connectedness and passenger protection.

Underneath all the tech is a good vehicle that carries its SUV-ness lightly. Serious enthusiasts will prefer the speedy and sharp M40i, but the 30d is plenty for most. Its beautifully crafted cabin is a tactile delight, and it’s highly configurable to boot.

Whether you need it over a still-quick 20d is of course debatable, but in desirability terms the 30d’s extra cylinders, urge and smoothness add a lot of appeal. The enhanced connectivity potential of the X3 will be important too.

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