New electro-mechanical steering provides a direct feel
Firm damping allows it to change direction with surprisingly little roll,
Prototype we drove felt tardy below 2000rpm
New SUV is much more rounded than its predecessor
The 182bhp 2.0-litre diesel in the xDrive20d will be the most popular in the UK
BMW is keen to promote the X3's off-road abilities
Boot space has improved thanks to X3's growth
Increased size means more cabin space
First DriveRange-topping X3 exhibits an impressive blend of performance, practicality and desirability
First DriveX3’s new 2.0-litre four-pot diesel has its merits, but bigger six-pot remains the more appealing choice
What is it?
Despite the disguise taping, it is clearly larger than the outgoing X3. Early figures indicate that length is up by 83mm, width by 29mm and height by 40mm. The wheelbase has grown by 15mm to 2810mm.
Those aren't huge increases, but they amount to a more spacious and comfortable interior.
Even more noticeable is the lift in interior quality. The materials are of a higher grade than those found in the old X3, giving it a more expensive feel.
The engines are revised four and six-cylinder petrols and diesels - for full details on the car and spec see Click on BMW X3 - first details
BMW intends to sell the new X3 at the same price as the old one in the UK. Nothing official just yet, but that means a base X3 xDrive20d should go for around £30,600.
What's it like?
We spent only an hour with BMW's prototype second-generation X3 - not long enough to form proper impressions but enough to reveal that the new SUV is much more rounded than its predecessor.
The 182bhp 2.0-litre diesel in the xDrive20d will be the most popular in the UK, but in the prototype we drove it felt tardy below 2000rpm and required more revs than should be necessary to hit its stride.That's odd, because it now delivers 281lb ft of torque, 22lb ft more than before.
Perhaps it's the longer gearing in six-speed manual guise, fitted as part of the fuel-saving measures that drop consumption by an impressive nine per cent.
New electro-mechanical steering provides a direct feel even without the added precision that BMW says will be brought by an optional M package. As with the old model, firm damping allows it to change direction with surprisingly little roll, and it's impressively agile, given the ride height. It also appears to lack the low-amplitude choppiness that made its predecessor a chore on British roads.
It gets BMW's variable damping control system with three levels of damper stiffness: Normal, Sport and Sport Plus.
It's still quite firm, but the annoying vertical movement, especially at the rear, has been quelled.
Should I buy one?
Although our early conclusions are drawn from a controlled test drive, it is clear the new X3 is an improvement on its predecessor in a number of areas.
We wouldn't rule out it achieving similar levels of success to the outgoing model.