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Engine options, top speed, acceleration and refinement

The BMW X3 benefits from the familiar magic weaved by BMW’s Efficient Dynamics programme, which has given almost all of the company’s model range class-leading green credentials. The X3 delivers similarly impressive numbers.

But the most impressive aspect is the effective invisibility of the economy-boosting eco tech, none of which gets in the way of the driving experience. The four-cylinder X3s manage the neat trick of being both greener and quicker than their rivals. 

The speed the Hill Descent Control tries to maintain can be altered using the cruise control buttons

There are no mechanical surprises. Power for the xDrive20d comes from BMW’s latest 2.0-litre diesel producing 187bhp/280lb ft in the latter. BMW claims a 0-62mph time of 8.5sec for the xDrive20d, which is pretty much on the money; we averaged 8.4sec to 60mph on a damp surface in that variant.

Only at very low revs does the 2.0-litre engine give away its relative lack of capacity, with little pull available below 1500rpm. But from then onwards there’s strong, lag-free urge until the engine starts to tighten up at around 4250rpm. The ultra-precise shift action of the six-speed manual gearbox makes it easy to keep the engine in its broad comfort zone, too.

It’s at the pumps that the X3 really impresses, though. The most frugal (and discontinued) sDrive18d boasts a combined fuel economy figure of 55.4mpg with CO2 emissions of 135g/km, while the xDrive20d scores 54.4mpg and 149g/km, despite the drag of its all-wheel drive system.

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The six-cylinder xDrive30d, with 255bhp and 413lb ft of torque, drops the 0-62mph time by over two seconds, making it a seriously quick SUV. Again, it’s a familiar engine, used across the BMW range.

The 30d's fuel economy is only marginally worse than the 20d's, in itself a great feat, given the performance gains. Its combined economy figure is 47.1mpg, with CO2 emissions of just 159g/km.

The range-topping 35d delivers yet more performance, shaving another 0.4sec off the 0-62mph time and offering a greater top speed of 149mph, for marginal economy and emissions losses. It's impressive stuff, but you have to question just how much performance you need from an SUV of this kind.