MUNICH, GERMANY – Diesels in Singapore are a funny business, especially since it’s largely a lifestyle choice, as opposed to an overweening desire to save money on fuel. Of course, the frugal nature of modern turbodiesel engines plays a part in the diesel-buying decision, but the people who go down the diesel route don’t really need to prove anything to anyone, so they aren’t terribly concerned about the characteristic clatter of diesel engines – just as long as there is little cabin intrusion – and least of all what the other people think about their chosen transport.
The irony is the buyers to whom fuel efficiency should matter the most are more concerned about the opinion of their neighbours. The higher we move up the price hierarchy, the less often one hears, “Aren’t diesel vehicles mostly commercial?”
Well, there’s certainly nothing commercial about the X3 20d, since this will be the first official diesel passenger ‘car’ under local BMW distributor, Performance Motors Limited – and not the 3 Series or 5 Series Touring that some fans might have been expecting – since we’re already familiar with the tri-turbodiesel onslaught of Munich Automobile’s ferocious M50d variants of the X6 and X5, but those M Performance Automobiles are tuned more for performance than fuel frugality. Not that we’re complaining, of course.
There’s a sleek elegance to the X3 that is seemingly at odds with its off-road capabilities, but it should feel equally at home at the country club porch or happily ploughing the mud along your closest nature trail, provided it isn’t too deep, anyway.
However, certain sporty elements, such as the flared arches and dynamic silhouette, help to underscore the X3 as a – in the words of BMW – Sport Activity Vehicle (SAV).
The X3 is built at the brand’s production facility in Spartanburg, USA, but the quality of fit and finish are commendably decent; the controls are well-damped and feature a decent level of taut operation.
Apart from the variable load-lugging abilities (550-litres to 1600-litres), there are a host of useful configurations that ensure optimum utility for the active household. The rear seat backrests can be deployed in a 40:20:40 ratio and the three segments can either be be folded down individually or in unison.
At the heart of the 20d beats a 2.0-litre turbodiesel that churns out 184bhp and more crucially, 380Nm from under 2000rpm, since as those in ‘the know’ know, the beauty of turbodiesel engines is the fat wedge of torque that they can deliver from barely over tickover, which translates simply to instant shove.
The X3 20d’s top speed is rated at 210km/h, with the century sprint dispatched in 8.5 seconds. Like so many of BMW’s current applications, the X3 20d relies on the impressive ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox for transmission duties – a gearbox we’ve come to learn is blessed with an exceptionally versatile character, which ably copes with performance and efficiency applications, as well as everything else in between the two poles.
We’ve mentioned the effect big torque has of seemingly reducing the size of a car, since the low-end torque enables such vehicles to exploit blink-and-miss-it gaps in the cut-and-thrust of peak hour traffic. The lofty seating position of the X3 also affords a good visibility of the road ahead, which is essential in plotting one’s next move (to get ahead in traffic!). We’d have preferred our test-car to come with steering wheel mounted shift paddles, since it gives the driver better control over the torque’s sliver of a window during B-road overtaking manoeuvres.
The X3 20d’s performance is effortless, regardless of whether it is trawling the highways or crawling in traffic. The torque may only be available in a small rpm window, but is more than capable of spurting into immediate action when some extra poke is required. We’d give this engine our vote if we needed to buy the X3; after all, it’s a vehicle skewed more towards activity than Sport.
NEED TO KNOW
Engine 1,995cc, 16v, turbodiesel in-line 4
Power 184bhp at 4,000rpm
Torque 380Nm at 1,750 – 2,750rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
Top Speed 210km/h
0-100km/h 8.5 seconds
Fuel efficiency 5.6l/100km (combined)
Price To Be Announced
Availability Q4 2013
Also Consider: Audi Q5 2.0 TDI, Lexus RX 270
Pictures by BMW