Matt Saunders
26 November 2010

What is it?

It’s BMW’s new X3 – and it has now officially arrived in the UK.

This second-generation SUV has grown in every dimension, comes with more standard equipment and a more powerful and efficient diesel engine, and yet it’s both lighter and cheaper than the car it replaces. This is our first chance to drive one on British tarmac.

What’s it like?

Eighty-three millimetres sounds like a lot to enlarge a compact 4x4 by, but that’s the growth spurt this car has undergone in terms of length. More than half of that has gone into the X3’s front overhang, presumably to the improvement of pedestrian protection, but there’s also more headroom and significantly more legroom inside the new X3.

There’s now certainly no doubting this X3’s credentials as a full-sized family car. Adults can travel in the back seats in plenty of comfort, and with the seats down, the 1600 litres of storage space available is within touching distance of the most practical cars in the class.

There’s only one engine on offer for now: the new ‘N47’ 2.0-litre commonrail diesel from BMW’s 520d. Six-pot turbodiesels will come later, but BMW’s twin-turbo 3.0-litre petrol is unlikely to make it to the UK.

Producing 182bhp at 4000rpm and 280lb ft of torque between 1750- and 2750rpm, the engine in the entry-level X3 provides class-leading fuel economy of 50.4mpg, claims BMW, and makes it the only car in the class to squeeze into Band F on VED road tax, emitting just 149g/km, or 147g/km if you opt for BMW’s excellent eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Our test car had BMW’s standard six-speed manual gearbox, and was tested in very cold temperatures that effectively disabled its engine stop-start system. Partly as a result of the cold, we suspect, it recorded a disappointing 39.2mpg on a mixed test route.

It rode quietly and handled keenly, with a well-met compromise of comfort, grip, agility and control, albeit on softer-compound cold weather tyres than most UK owners will specify, and with variable dampers that only come as a £910 option.

Our one gripe is a familiar one, with the X3’s steering system. Our test car had both ‘Servotronic’ varible-assistance power steering and BMW’s variable-ratio sport steering rack.

The systems combine to add weight and directness to the car’s steering at speed, but don’t always make it easy to carve a smooth and precise cornering line. They seemed to add unwelcome heft to the X3’s helm at times, too.

Should I buy one?

Probably – provided you can tick the right boxes as you spec it up. We’d certainly include the £1495 eight-speed taller-ratio auto ’box for better motorway economy and stronger residuals, as well as the varible dampers. But we’d stay away from the variable steering.

Get the right spec and this new BMW should make a more multi-talented, well-rounded and sensible family car than most of its competition. And given that the Land Rover Freelander 2, Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60 are among its rivals, that’s no mean compliment.

 

BMW X3 xDrive20d SE

Price: £30,490; Top speed: 130mph; 0-62mph: 8.5sec; Economy: 50.4mpg; CO2: 149g/km; Kerb weight: 1790kg; Engine: 4 cyls, 1995cc, turbodiesel; Power: 182bhp at 4000rpm; Torque: 280lb ft at 1750-2750rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

 

Join the debate

Comments
59

Re: BMW X3 xDrive20d SE

3 years 21 weeks ago

Yes, but what is it actually like off-road ?

I'll get my coat.

Re: BMW X3 xDrive20d SE

3 years 21 weeks ago

On the standard wheels and a well chosen hybrid tyre, good enough to cope with muddy forest tracks, I suspect. And on lower profile summer rubber, probably little more useful than an M3 GTS on Avon slicks. Tyres make more difference than almost anything else offroad.

On Pirelli winter tyres it certainly was great in slush and snow. I doubt the chassis would be hardy enough to cope with really rutted terrain, and the approach, departure and breakover angles probably aren't as high as some. It's more of a crossover than an old-school, upright 4x4, after all.

Point is, surely, that BMW 4x4s are better-handling on the road than most; that's the compromise Munich has always targetted. If you want a proper off-roader, buy a Land Cruiser.

Re: BMW X3 xDrive20d SE

3 years 21 weeks ago

Partly as a result of the cold, we suspect, it recorded a disappointing 39.2mpg on a mixed test route.

My first thought was - this mpg is better than the TwinAir Fiat 500...

Re: BMW X3 xDrive20d SE

3 years 21 weeks ago

Matt Saunders wrote:
Point is, surely, that BMW 4x4s are better-handling on the road than most; that's the compromise Munich has always targetted. If you want a proper off-roader, buy a Land Cruiser

Oh and yes - absolutely right. I drove an X1 a few weeks ago and for a tall thing it handled beautifully on the road - where most of us spend the majority of our time

Re: BMW X3 xDrive20d SE

3 years 21 weeks ago

Autocar wrote:
It’s BMW’s new X3
The X3 is finally worth the BMW badge by the looks of things, very good. Great MPG, looks pretty good inside & out and apparently drives like a BMW. Sounds pretty good to me

Re: BMW X3 xDrive20d SE

3 years 21 weeks ago

ej03 wrote:
Autocar wrote:
It’s BMW’s new X3
The X3 is finally worth the BMW badge by the looks of things, very good. Great MPG, looks pretty good inside & out and apparently drives like a BMW. Sounds pretty good to me

Well considering the majority of current BMW's are pig ugly or bland at best, dont drive as well the "the ultimate driving machine" should, and a quarter of the range doesnt really have a point, but have fantastic engines, I think you are right.

Re: BMW X3 xDrive20d SE

3 years 21 weeks ago

Whilst I think it's a big improvement on the previous gen. That front bumper is still awful, the plastic on the rear bumper is nasty. I also think they may have used school dinner trays for the seat backings?? Also not a fan of the window line. To sum up then, still not a fan.

Re: BMW X3 xDrive20d SE

3 years 20 weeks ago

Should make for a great family car in the "urban jungle"! However, I keep hearing horror stories about modern diesel cars with DPF (diesel particulate filter) regeneration problems when these (BMW or otherwise) are used exclusivily for town driving, to the extent that modern diesel cars (with fitted DPF) are not suited for use in exclusively urban conditions!

Does anyone know if this is still the case, or has the DPF failure to regenerate in low speed driving been solved?

Re: BMW X3 xDrive20d SE

3 years 20 weeks ago

Matt Saunders wrote:
On Pirelli winter tyres it certainly was great in slush and snow. I doubt the chassis would be hardy enough to cope with really rutted terrain, and the approach, departure and breakover angles probably aren't as high as some. It's more of a crossover than an old-school, upright 4x4, after all.

Thanks for the prompt reply. I'm not an faux 4wd fan, but may need a vehicle for snow and gravel terrain, so useful to know.

I'll get my coat.

Re: BMW X3 xDrive20d SE

3 years 20 weeks ago

ischiaragazzo wrote:

Partly as a result of the cold, we suspect, it recorded a disappointing 39.2mpg on a mixed test route.

My first thought was - this mpg is better than the TwinAir Fiat 500

I thought the same. For a fairly large 4x4 with decent performance in what seems to be very cold weather, 39.2mpg seems pretty good.

Please register or login to post a comment.

Our Verdict

The BMW X3 is both frugal and rewarding to drive, a rare and clever technical achievement

Driven this week

  • Mercedes-Benz E-class E400 AMG Sport Plus coupe first drive review

    Mercedes-Benz E-class E400 AMG Sport Plus coupe first drive review

    First drive
    25 April 2014 12:02am

    Luxury rear-drive coupé aims to appeal to keener drivers with a 329bhp twin-turbo petrol V6 and a host of AMG upgrades

  • Peugeot 308 e-THP 130 first drive review

    Peugeot 308 e-THP 130 first drive review

    First drive
    23 April 2014

    New three-cylinder petrol performs well in the 308, adding extra appeal to this stylish and upmarket family hatch

  • Audi R8 e-tron

    Audi R8 e-tron

    Car review
    23 April 2014

    We test the prototype all-electric Audi R8 that's capable of 0-62mph in 4.2sec, with an optimum range of 124 miles and a charging time of less than one hour

  • 2014 Volkswagen Polo first drive review

    2014 Volkswagen Polo first drive review

    First drive
    22 April 2014

    Clever tech makes the Polo more economical, cleaner and safer, while new engines offer greater refinement but no more driving involvement

  • Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

    Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

    Car review
    17 April 2014

    Can this plug-in hybrid SUV do more than just cut your tax bill?