The BMW X3 has had a facelift that ticks all the right boxes
Whether petrol or diesel-powered, or a BMW M creation, the BMW X3 formula for a family vehicle that balances practicality, luxury, performance and all-surface capability hasn’t changed.
For the latest generation, which has had a facelift and which we tested in xDrive20d M Sport guise, this means a diesel 2.0-litre 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 tell the differences immediately. The steering is slicker and the ride quality supple, without wallowing in corners, and it maintains this softness on bad surfaces too. Improved outside-noise insulation helps 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 comes with a useful powered tailgate and a net to stop loose items flying about. The rear seats fold down, creating space for 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 in a compact, premium sports activity vehicle (SAV), as BMW terms it.
A free-standing 31.2cm touchscreen display allows for easier access to the menus. There are also new levels of connectivity to smartphones, including wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You can option many other smart-tech features, such as a head-up display.
Its name may not sound as exciting as that of its cousin, the M40i, but you’ll be impressed with what it can do. Take it on a long journey — and in a hurry, as I did recently — on uneven roads with plenty of switchbacks and you’ll realise this one shouldn’t be discounted.
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 claims 8.0 seconds to 100km/h and a top speed of 213km/h.
The figures aren’t explosive, but a suspension that didn’t struggle with potholes or sharp bends was a bonus. The steering weighs up nicely and the overall connectedness the driver has with the car allows a confident charge down any road.
The cherry on top of comfortable suspension and dynamic driving aptitude is fuel consumption.
BMW claims 5.6l/100km on average and though little time was spent commuting around town to prove this, it’s believable considering the test car used an impressive 7.9l/100km on a dash between provinces.
The xDrive 20d M Sport costs R1,037,176, in the ballpark of the Porsche Macan, which is marginally more expensive, but doesn't have a diesel alternative.
The BMW is also pricier than its rivals, which include the Audi Q5 40TDI quattro, Mercedes-Benz GLC220d and Volvo XC60 AWD R-Design.
But as a package the X3 is up there with the best and gets my vote.
BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport
WE LIKE: Looks, drive quality, handling, fuel consumption
WE DISLIKE: Price. It's on the expensive side.
VERDICT: Brilliantly packaged model
THE COMPETITION: 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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