BMW’s all-new mid-size luxury SUV makes considerable gains over its predecessor in terms of equipment, ride refinement and interior space. Priced between $68,900 and $83,900 before options, it arrived with an initial choice of three, all-wheel drive (xDrive in BMW parlance) models, including the entry-level X3 20d and 30d diesels.
Sitting in the middle is the sole petrol variant, the X3 xDrive 30i, which features a gutsy but quiet 185kW/350Nm 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo engine coupled with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The new X3 is comfortable and spacious while maintaining a small enough external footprint for easy parking.
Priced at $75,900, the BMW X3 comes with an impressive list of standard features. Out test car came with the $3800 M Sport package, which added sporty interior and exterior enhancements, and a string of other options including 21-inch wheels, front seat lumbar support, metallic paint, ambient lighting and panoramic sunroof, taking the retail price to $92,220.
- The 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine in the 30i is quiet even at higher speeds, helped by the fact that its eight-speed auto preferences lower rpm to take advantage of the powertrain’s meaty mid-range torque. It’s capable of 0-100km/h in 6.3 seconds too, with equally impressive acceleration when you’re already at speed.
- Ride is good on the adaptive dampers that come as part of the M Sport package. In default Comfort mode it feels silky smooth around town and doesn’t do too much wrong over rougher surfaces, whether in Comfort or Sport. It was surprisingly composed on the big 21-inch wheels, which are a $1300 option, though road noise can be an issue on coarse surfaces.
- It’s spacious. The new X3’s wheelbase and overall length is 54mm longer than the previous model, and the car itself is actually bigger than the original X5 large SUV. There’s a heap of elbow room up front and the rear seats offer plentiful legroom and a wide enough bench for three adults.
- Rear seat passengers have their own air-conditioning controls and a 12-volt socket to charge their devices.
- The exterior, which was penned by Aussie-born BMW designer Calvin Luck, is still small enough to make parking easy and has sharper looks than the previous model.
- The cabin quality and ambience is excellent even before you start ticking option boxes. The car we tested felt particularly plush with the panoramic sunroof, ambient lighting, Vernasca leather seats in Canberra Beige and Poplar Grain Grey fine-wood trim.
- Buttons and controls are intuitively placed, easy to use and pleasant to touch thanks to their metallicised coating.
- Standard equipment includes a 10.25-inch display, high-level infotainment, automatic tailgate, adaptive LED headlights, head-up display (HUD), panoramic and 3D view parking camera, digital radio, 12.3-inch digital instrument display, auto parking assist and wireless phone charging.
- As well as telling what speed you’re doing, the coloured HUD provides plenty of information without being too cluttered. Information includes speed limit and the current speed which changes from white to red if you’re going too fast. It also displays cruise control info and provides route guidance info when you’ve set a destination in the sat-nav.
- The satellite navigation system is one of the better ones, with a high-resolution map display and easy to set destinations. It even understood voice commands on the first try.
- The X3 comes with a suite of advanced driver assist features as standard including auto braking, active cruise control, front cross traffic alert and lane-keeping assist with side collision warning.
- The leather seats are comfortable, but don’t offer much by way of lateral support so you may feel like you’re going to slide off while negotiating bends.
- It could be because of the seats, but body roll on sharper bends felt pronounced even for an SUV.
- The panoramic sunroof fitted as a $3000 option adds to the ambience, however opening it results in irritating wind buffeting even at lower speeds.
- The door mirrors are large and give a great view of what’s behind you, but produce noticeable wind noise.
- Despite the extra length, the boot size is 550L, which is exactly the same as before (though still above-average for a medium SUV). Fold the seats down and you’ll be able to fit a considerable 1600 litres, but those expecting better cargo capacity than the outgoing model may be disappointed.