What is it?
This is BMW's ever-growing SUV, the X3, back for its third generation and driven for the first time in right-hand-drive form - albeit on Moroccan roads. Following a steer of the xDrive30d last month, it's also our first chance to sample the more frugal xDrive20d model, although it's no longer the entry-level choice; that's a slot now reserved for the new xDrive20i petrol model due in December.
Unlike the previous two generations, this X3's architecture owes more to the 5 Series than the 3 Series and the car is now longer and wider than the original X5. Its 51mm increase in length over the outgoing F25 model is reflected closely by a jump in wheelbase that boosts rear cabin space. Despite this growth and additional sound-deadening measures, increased use of aluminium and composites means our 2.0-litre diesel model’s weight is effectively unchanged at 1825kg.
The familiar four-cylinder engine's vitals endure, too, meaning 187bhp and 295lb ft – enough to deliver 62mph in 8.0sec via a revised eight-speed automatic gearbox (you can no longer buy a manual X3). The electronically controlled xDrive system now uses a more efficient transfer case sourced from the 7 Series and a lighter rear differential. Its rear bias has been ramped up, but all of the torque can, in principle, be sent to either axle. There's hill descent control as standard, but mud-plugging is more a hobby than a vocation. As BMW puts it: "The X3 is a capable off-road vehicle for its intended audience."