From £31,945
Range-topping X3 combines real-world virtues with exceptional performance and entertaining handling

Our Verdict

BMW X3

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

What is it?

BMW’s new range-topping X3, the xDrive30d M Sport, which is now on sale throughout UK showrooms. Combining generous standard equipment levels and advanced chassis technology with class-leading performance and genuinely sporting handling, it’s a car that gives real credibility to BMW’s claim of making the most driver-focused SUVs in the world.

And yet it would hardly matter if this car had half of its dynamic poise and purpose, so convincing is the objective prospect that it represents.

As practical as almost any medium-sized SUV, this BMW trounces its nearest rivals in key areas. Capable of going almost ten miles further for every gallon of diesel than Audi’s equivalent Q5, this car is also faster and more powerful than the Audi, and more than three seconds faster accelerating to 62mph than Land Rover’s most powerful diesel Freelander.

What it like?

A very impressive, fast and desirable family car. If this X3’s armour has a chink, it’s mechanical refinement. Fire the engine up and you’ll find it a little more vocal than the bigger-selling four-pot diesel; significantly less well isolated than it is in a 5-series. It’s far from noisy though, and combined with the eight-speed automatic gearbox that comes as standard, drives the X3 forward with enough mid-range pace to really concentrate the mind.

Equipped with BMW’s optional adaptive dampers, our test car rode fluently enough in ‘Normal’ mode so as not to compromise on comfort, and yet had tighter body control and precise and predictable handling in ‘Sport’ mode. It felt grippy and tautly controlled on turn-in, and much more agile and responsive to drive than most cars of its size.

M Sport specification on the X3 includes variable ratio power steering and BMW’s ‘Performance Control’ active four-wheel drive system as standard, but it doesn’t include active anti-roll bars. So equipped, the X3 corners with a great deal more composure and throttle adjustability than you expect of such a tall car, making it engaging and interactive on a flowing country road.

There’s always enough traction to make use of the car’s performance, and drive is delivered to the road with a sophistication that seems to counteract early-onset understeer very effectively.

In calmer moods, you can also enjoy the compliance of the X3’s adaptive chassis – not to mention, on longer motorway runs, remarkable efficiency from that six-cylinder engine. 47mpg may be a little difficult to match, but you can certainly expect to see 40mpg from this car at a typical motorway cruise.

Should I buy one?

If you’re in the market for a premium brand 4x4, few combine performance, economy and practicality with quite as much success.

It may be that X3s on passively damped M Sport suspension don’t have this car’s breadth of ability but, with that caveat, we’d say that in the real world – where Range Rover Evoques just aren’t practical enough, and Porsche Cayennes out of your price range – BMW’s range-topping X3 has the fast family 4x4 market all sewn up.

BMW X3 xDrive30d M Sport

Price: £39,625; Top speed: 130mph; 0-62mph: 6.2sec; Economy: 47.1mpg; Co2: 159g/km; Kerb weight: 1875kg; Engine type, cc: 6cyls in line, 2993cc, turbodiesel; Power: 255bhp at 4000rpm; Torque: 413lb ft at 2000-2750rpm; Gearbox: 8-spd automatic

Join the debate

Comments
28

1 August 2011

Best new BMW for some time....better than any 3 series come winter time.

1 August 2011

No different than any 3 series come winter time, unless its got the appropriate tyres on

18 January 2013

rodenal wrote:

No different than any 3 series come winter time, unless its got the appropriate tyres on

I have driven both a 3 series and BMW SUV in winter both with similar low profile tyres etc. There is a large difference and to claim otherwise is plain wrong. The 3 series on winter tyres could easily be better than either but i have not tried so cant be sure.

1 August 2011

[quote rodenal]No different than any 3 series come winter time, unless its got the appropriate tyres on[/quote] Bearing in mind this is a 4x4 and the 3-series is RWD, how did you come to that conclusion? Have you driven one in winter time?

1 August 2011

The 4wd will be next to no use on its low profile, summer tyres-ever seen a x5 in the snow? Hilariously useless, managed to get going in my old e36 on summer tyres, albeit brand ne ones whilst one spun all 4 wheels in anger

1 August 2011

I believe they have a winter type tyre selection or all rounders very suitable for winter. They do on the smaller models anyway. I ended up buying winter tyres for my 3 series, as it was bloody useless without them. With them it was perfectly fine in moderate amounts of snow.

I have one question about this car. Spec the Variable Damper Control, this deselecting the M Sport Suspension, or stick with the default?

I see the VDC getting fantastic reviews, but not seen it compared against the Sport Suspension so much, just the normal one.

2 August 2011

Good grief someone has seen the light, are they really allowed to say it, did this get past the PR dept auto interceptor, I mean this really goes against the grain, surely the reviewer will be fired,

"where Range Rover Evoques just aren’t practical enough"

just waiting for the press release apology.........

Thank you BMW for this if nothing else.

2 August 2011

[quote rodenal]The 4wd will be next to no use on its low profile, summer tyres-ever seen a x5 in the snow? Hilariously useless, managed to get going in my old e36 on summer tyres, albeit brand ne ones whilst one spun all 4 wheels in anger[/quote] Interestingly I was driven in an X5 in (light) snow outside Zurich last xmas. No problem with the car getting about,...... well, aside from me having to fit on the third of seats right at the back (there were 7 of us in the vehicle)!

2 August 2011

[quote Overdrive]Interestingly I was driven in an X5 in (light) snow outside Zurich last xmas. No problem with the car getting about[/quote]

Even a Hyundai Getz can get around in snow on winter tyres. (This is what my mother drives in Scandinavia!) The question for me would be - how much better is the X3 on winter tyres than any non 4wd drive car similarly equipped?

That aside, nice car. However, since the emissions and economy are the same I'll wait for the X3 35D.


2 August 2011

Looking at the interior shots, it appears that we have yet another german car with offset pedals... Why does this now seem to be the norm by german manufacturers for RHD?

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron UK review
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    First UK drive finds the facelifted A3 Sportback e-tron remains a first-rate plug-in hybrid that is packed with tech if a little short on driver appeal
  • Citroen C11.2 Puretech 82 Furio
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    Citroën's city car gets a new sporty-looking trim level, adding visual adornments, but no premium for the 1.2-litre Puretech triple we're driving
  • Mercedes C350e Sport
    First Drive
    28 September 2016
    Petrol-electric C-Class is a surprisingly well-priced alternative to a diesel but not the greatest example of the new ‘PHEV’ breed
  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka