What is it?
BMW’s new range-topping X3, the xDrive30d M Sport, which is now on sale throughout UK showrooms. Combining generous standard equipment levels and advanced chassis technology with class-leading performance and genuinely sporting handling, it’s a car that gives real credibility to BMW’s claim of making the most driver-focused SUVs in the world.
And yet it would hardly matter if this car had half of its dynamic poise and purpose, so convincing is the objective prospect that it represents.
As practical as almost any medium-sized SUV, this BMW trounces its nearest rivals in key areas. Capable of going almost ten miles further for every gallon of diesel than Audi’s equivalent Q5, this car is also faster and more powerful than the Audi, and more than three seconds faster accelerating to 62mph than Land Rover’s most powerful diesel Freelander.
What it like?
A very impressive, fast and desirable family car. If this X3’s armour has a chink, it’s mechanical refinement. Fire the engine up and you’ll find it a little more vocal than the bigger-selling four-pot diesel; significantly less well isolated than it is in a 5-series. It’s far from noisy though, and combined with the eight-speed automatic gearbox that comes as standard, drives the X3 forward with enough mid-range pace to really concentrate the mind.
Equipped with BMW’s optional adaptive dampers, our test car rode fluently enough in ‘Normal’ mode so as not to compromise on comfort, and yet had tighter body control and precise and predictable handling in ‘Sport’ mode. It felt grippy and tautly controlled on turn-in, and much more agile and responsive to drive than most cars of its size.
M Sport specification on the X3 includes variable ratio power steering and BMW’s ‘Performance Control’ active four-wheel drive system as standard, but it doesn’t include active anti-roll bars. So equipped, the X3 corners with a great deal more composure and throttle adjustability than you expect of such a tall car, making it engaging and interactive on a flowing country road.
There’s always enough traction to make use of the car’s performance, and drive is delivered to the road with a sophistication that seems to counteract early-onset understeer very effectively.