The greatest dynamic strength of BMW’s X-badged models has always been that they share most of their major suspension components, and a corresponding measure of their driving behaviour, with conventional models from elsewhere in the range. This obviously limits their ultimate off-road performance, but it does translate into road-friendly manners. This trait continues in the X3.
Apart from its different drivetrain, the X3 drives like a taller and slightly heavier 3 Series Touring. It steers with similar precision and offers equally well balanced dynamic responses.
One of the biggest criticisms of the first-generation X3 was its overly hard ride, and BMW has given this car a far more compliant set-up. Even on upgraded 18in wheels and runflat tyres, the X3 rides rougher British road surfaces with almost effortless disdain. The suspension can be upgraded with an adaptive damper control system, which offers Normal, Sport and Sport+ modes. In our experience, Normal offers the best body control, negating the obvious point of the stiffer settings.
You can also elect to add Servotronic steering, which varies the level of power assistance, and variable-ratio sports steering, again an option. The presence of both systems feels like dynamic overkill on what is, ultimately, still a diesel SUV, and the steering’s ultra-sharp responses make it sometimes hard to hold a precise line on longer corners. However, the systems make the X3 feel extremely stable at motorway speeds.
Refinement is mostly excellent, with the X3’s well insulated cabin making it an extremely comfortable motorway car. Road noise is minimal at cruising speeds, although the relative quiet from below serves to emphasise wind noise from the top of the windscreen and the door mirrors.