BMW’s X3 has been around in our market for some years now and the third-generation model was launched here in 2018. It sits between the X1 and the X5. We find out if it is the most accomplished X3 so far.
We have a proper look and the new BMW X3 and realise that it’s like a shrunken X5 when viewed from a particular angle. It’s not bigger than an X5, but you can hardly notice the difference in size. View it from the side and you will see the bigger bonnet, huge squared-off wheel arches. At the front, the kidney grille has grown larger and has slats that open and close. The double-barreled headlamps look quite huge for the face but the LED inserts give it a good look. From the rear, it looks different from an X5 but the bumper does hint at the larger sibling. Many of the dynamic enhancements made on the new BMW X3 are because this model has been built on BMW’s CLAR platform. The bonnet and doors are made of aluminium, and yet, the new BMW X3 is lighter and stiffer than the car it replaces.
Inside the X3, BMW Cars have widened the cabin, and since it is built on a longer wheelbase, passengers have more legroom at the front and rear. The levels of quality are now at par with some other BMW Cars and buttons, like on bigger Bimmers, are electroplated. And the tiny buttons are now gone. All the switches work with a quality feel and the fit and finish are exceptional. The seats are nicer to sit on and the driving position is so much more comfortable. The materials and plastics are all top-notch; the door pads and the dashboard are padded, giving it a great look and we like the styling of the iDrive screen, fully digital instrument cluster and AC controls. Some might find the dashboard looking very familiar. The sixth-generation iDrive has taken things up a notch too, with the menu that is horizontally aligned. The screen can also be controlled via the rotary iDrive controller or the touchscreen. We also love the new M Sport steering wheel. The seats are wider and comfier; the seatbacks recline, but under-thigh support should’ve been better. However, occupants in the rear get access to window shades and climate control. At 550 litres, boot space is good. It gets some rather nice features too, like the screen-based display key, a huge panoramic sunroof and wireless charging.
Once you get behind the wheel, you realise how far this SUV has come. Cabin insulation has improved; diesel clatter is well contained and the cabin just feels like a better place to be in, by and large. The brand has also used acoustic glazing for the windscreen to bring down noise levels. Even when you accelerate hard, it sounds hushed and that’s surprising for what is a diesel SUV. The new X3 is powered by a 187bhp, 2.0-litre diesel engine that does initially feel lethargic because of turbo lag, but if you floor it, it surges ahead. In Sport mode, the SUV is more fun; the responses are sharper and the throttle gets so sensitive at that point that a mild tap on it results in the 8-speed ‘box dropping a cog. The engine likes to rev, but not past 4000rpm because that’s when it gets too vocal.
In Comfort mode, the adjustable dampers and coil springs do a good job in softening the ride. There’s lots of suspension travel and the SUV remains flat and what makes the ride even better is the use of lightweight components like hollow anti-roll bars and aluminium suspension. It rides with good composure over some uneven terrain but does a far better job on-road. There’s great balance thanks to the rear-biased four-wheel-drive system. The steering is a bit heavy in Sport mode, but it lets you push hard into corners with loads of confidence. Body roll exists but the X3 settles on its suspension once you begin pushing hard. The tyres provide ample grip and it changes directions well, despite its heft.
The best X3, then?
BMW has priced the new X3 quite competitively and has all the makings of a best-in-segment SUV. You will be impressed with the way it drives, rides and handles – if you’re behind the wheel, you’re going to appreciate it for these attributes. It also feels compact, the cabin is beautifully put together and it offers more space and comfort than its predecessor. Also, the icing on the cake will be its equipment list. Also, grab the latest info on the upcoming cars, only at autoX.