What is it?
Don’t expect any vaulting advances from BMW’s latest X3, the formula for this all-new version very similar to that of its predecessor. Given that BMW has sold over 1.5 million X3s over the first two editions and 14 years, that shouldn’t be a surprise, inching inter-generational progress the evolutionary hallmark of every car that’s a big hit.
In fact this third-generation X3 contains useful advances on multiple fronts, not the least of them on the aesthetic, dynamic, connected and tactile fronts. Tactile? If you order your X3 with Fineline open-pored wood, and Aluminium Rhombicle (!) interior trim highlights, you’ll discover that it’s impossible to resist touching each of these textures a second time, and many more, once you have run your fingers over them. The open-pored wood allows you to feel the contours of its grain on both dashboard and door tops, while the aluminium trim decorates the centre console, dashboard and more.
This may seem the stuff of mildly irrelevant detail, except that it underlines how well-finished this cabin is, regardless of your décor choices, making this latest X3 a particularly satisfying place to occupy. Especially if it’s filled with the natural illumination provided panorama roof, leather upholstery and so-called Sensatec trim to the dashboard, this double-stitched pleather further heightening the aura of craftsmanship. More fundamentally, the seats are very comfortable too, those in the rear, which optionally recline, serving a more comfortable posture and more space, too, this the result of a wheelbase lengthened by five centimetres.
Despite the stretch this new X3 occupies very similar roadspace to the last, the rest of its dimensions barely changed. The ideal 50:50 weight distribution remains too, but there are subtle and extensive changes to the suspension that promise a useful advance, these detailed in the tech box. The X3 is game for modestly challenging off-road adventures too, what with its 204mm ride height, reasonable approach and departure angles and a 500mm wading capability.
A broad choice of engines is offered, ranging from 181bhp 2.0i turbo petrol four to the 355bhp 3.0 litre six cylinder M40i, the diesel 188bhp 20d and six cylinder 261bhp 30d provided in-between. All come with an eight-speed paddle shift automatic transmission as standard. Among these only the 30d is significantly changed compared to the engines of the outgoing X3, its peak torque climbing usefully to 457lb ft from the previous 413lb ft; power output also rises slightly, from 254bhp to 261bhp. It’s this version that we test here.
The X3’s overall weight is up to 55kg lighter depending on the model, the combination of this and the 30d’s greater power slicing its 0-62mph by a tenth to 5.8sec, while its top speed lifts to 149mph from 144mph. A sizeable drag coefficient reduction, from 0.36 to 0.29, also helps, detail aero improvements including air curtains across the front wheels, a rear spoiler with sculpted end-plates, additional underbody cladding and active radiator grille vanes. The double kidney grille itself is taller and distinctly more emphatic than before, besides capping a slightly shorter front overhang.