‘Much more than before for Singapore’ is the name of the game with BMW’s accomplished new X3
The X3 is now in its third-generation and has become strong seller for BMW. The newest model runs on the latest CLAR architecture, as shared with the newest BMW 5 Series.
The degree to which platform impacts a car can be over or understated, but in the X3’s case, it’s patently obvious that it makes the car capable of much more than it ever could do before.
To begin with, the interior room is improved – while the car is only slightly larger than before, but the wheels have been pushed outwards, and 54mm more wheelbase results in more interior room, especially for rear passengers.
Before they could only expect lots of headroom in a medium-sized luxury SUV like this, but less space to stretch out. At 2,810mm, the X3 still has a shorter wheelbase than the Mercedes GLC (2,873mm) and slightly less room, but it’s about equivalent in real life to the the Audi Q5 (2,819mm).
Like its predecessor, there is no shortage of cargo storage either – the X3 provides exactly the same amount as it did before, from 550-litres to 1,600-litres. SUV owners will know the formidable pain that comes with taming tonneau covers, and we loved the X3’s very practical ability to have it stowed under the boot floor where it can cause no harm or get lost, as well as the boot’s remote seat release.
Tested here is the M Sport edition of the mainstream X3, the xDrive30i, which comes with a 252hp 2.0-litre turbo engine, all-wheel drive and eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The new X3 is a big machine in many ways. In fact, it feels very similar to the X5, as the size, design and feeling from the helm are all amplified.
Its road presence and tall seating position, plus the bulged bonnet, make it feel like quite a beast to drive. While the Q5 and GLC feel more directly accessible, the X3 needs a little more managing or taming.
That may sound off-putting to some, but point the X3 at some good tarmac and it’s capable of indecently quick pace for a presumably garden-variety luxury SUV. The turbo 2.0-litre delivers plenty of brawn, although like its competitors, it sounds straightforward rather than zingy.
Dynamically, the xDrive30i delivers everything a driver could want in real-life — we can’t imagine how much more the M40i can up the pace, or even the expected X3 M model, for that matter.
The downside is that the modern and bold BMW character also comes with busy ride quality. With Singapore’s tarmac now degenerating, the thumps and bumps are at odds with the otherwise very refined character of the car. Smooth, newly-paved highway stretches are limo-quiet, but near MRT construction zones, shudders are obvious and jarring.
The solution is that we recommend the less expensive xLine model as it has smaller 19-inch wheels, a softer setup, and neither it nor the M Sport have adaptive suspension as standard.
Obviously the M Sport edition does come with a sportier suspension setup, larger 20-inch wheels, better M-themed brakes and other go-faster-looking-bits, more M-themed interior parts (fat steering wheel, sill plates and lovely leather sport seats) but most people can do without these things and save the $15k price difference between the M Sport and xLine models.
Trim differences aside, the comparison between the X3 and the X5 is even stronger. In fact, it’s better to think of the X3 as a real alternative to its bigger brother, as long as you don’t need seven seats.
That’s because many of the features of the new 5 Series (and 7 Series) are also found on the X3. The latest iDrive system with BMW ConnectedDrive, that includes gesture control, the touchscreen control scheme in addition to the rotary controller, the active instrument display.
The ‘connected’ bit also means you have plenty of choices to interact with the car when you’re not even near it – BMW’s Display Key lets you check the vehicle’s status (window open, doors locked), pre-set ventilation, or do even more things with BMW’s app, such as take a shot of the car’s surroundings remotely.
No it’s not rudeness – it’s gesture control, standard on the 5 Series, 7 Series and now, the X3.
Until now Mercedes with its GLC has enjoyed its time at the top of the mid-sized luxury SUV pile, but the X3 is the equal, or better, of it in all areas except ride quality. Which is the better car depends, of course, on what your ‘X’ needs to excel in.
BMW X3 xDrive30i M Sport
Engine 1,998cc, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 252hp at 5200-6500rpm
Torque 350Nm at 1450-4800rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
Top Speed 240km/h
0-100km/h 6.3 seconds
Fuel efficiency 7.6 L/100km
CO2 TBA g/km
Price S$258,888 with COE
Agent Performance Motors Limited
Verdict: X3’s gone big time – it’s an X3 in BMW parlance, but it can do much of what the 5 and 7 Series can as well