DRIVEN: Third Generation BMW X3 – First Impression.

Bigger, Bolder, Better!

We were invited to the launch of the Third Generation BMW X3 in the beautiful city of George. BMW couldn’t have a better place to introduce this car. The landscape, the people and the aura it possesses cannot be put into words. The BMW X3 is a compact luxury crossover SUV with BMW marketing it as an SAV “Sports Activity Vehicle” like the rest of the X-Line range.

BMW’s X-Line range is quite a success story.  Since the introduction of the first X model, the X5 in 1999, the brand has sold over 5.4 million X models worldwide. The X3 was introduced in 2003 and has sold more than 1.5million units of its first & second generation models worldwide attributing to 28% of sales from the X-Line range, pretty good. The new X3 is quite important for South Africa as BMW’s Rosslyn plant in Pretoria will be building these new models to be sold in Mzansi and exported to Europe. BMW have pumped R3billion to the plant to be able to build the car.

The third generation BMW X3 is an all-new car, seriously. From an exterior design perspective what has changed? Larger kidney grille, fog lamps have changed from round to hexagonal lights, front lights are sharper giving the car a more a more boulder appearance, the wheelbase has been enlarged by 50mm and the length has grown by 50mm. The roofline has been lowered at the rear to give the car a more dynamic appearance. It’s big, parking the third generation X3 next to the first generation X5, they’re the same size! Available in three trims, xLine, Luxury Line and M Sport. M Sport models are by far the best looking coming in 21 Inch wheels and unique body kit.

BMW has done a pretty good job with the interior. The layout is pretty good and could be mistaken for a 5 or 7 Series. It’s nothing short of premium. Upfront you find a beautiful 10.2 touch screen with gesture control (navigation system professional)  and BMW’s latest iDrive infotainment system and a beautiful chunky multi-functional leather steering wheel. Adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and semi-autonomous driving can be activated on the steering wheel. First time trying out semi-autonomous driving on a car and it works pretty well on this car.

On launch, there were three engine options: the xDrive20d (2.0d), xDrive30i (2.0 turbo petrol) xDrive30d (3.0d) and the range-topping M40i (3.0 turbo-petrol) On day one I opted for the range-topping X3 M40i, what a proper performance car. The handling is sublime thanks to BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system (which is now standard on all new X3 models), potent 265kW 3.0litre twin-turbocharged engine and 500Nm of torque. This has to be the best sounding production BMW at the moment, in my opinion, it sounds glorious. The bangs and pops from the M Performance exhaust will leave a smile on your face for days. On tar roads, on the mountain passes it handled corners beautifully and on straight roads, it never felt like its gonna run out of puff. Off road the BMW X3 feels at home, the xDrive system always there to get you out of sticky situations.

Day two saw me get into the xDrive30d, if you wanted performance and fuel efficiency, this is the car to opt for. It makes do with a 195kW 3.0d but with more torque (620Nm) than the M40i (500Nm), from almost any gear you get good throttle and a surge of power which is great for off-roading, I found it no different from the M40i offroad since it handled then terrain particularly well.

The BMW X3 M40i is the one that stood out the most to me with its handling and performance, but from a practically perspective more people will buy the 2.0d and 3.0d variants for everyday use. This is an exceptional car from BMW and I see it doing very well worldwide. Pricing starts from R687 506.00 for the xDrive30d up to the range-topping M40i at R1 000 676.00

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