Step inside the X3 (and it is stepping rather than climbing) and you’ll quickly understand what BMW evidently has, which is that buyers in this segment want a vehicle at the confluence of practicality and luxury.

Architecturally, there’s little to distinguish this car from its predecessor, but the detail changes have been executed with aplomb.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
They’re gimmicky, but the hidden ‘X’ motifs that become visible when you open the X3’s doors are a nice touch

Much of the switchgear is now electroplated, the crisp dials are newly digital but cupped by physical chromed crescent decorative trims (stylish, although they do straitjacket the potential of the display) and the unusual trim finishings convey a level of lavishness hitherto unfamiliar to X3 owners.

The quality of build and materials seems to have been nudged forward, too, and there’s a softness to the cabin, with no discernible play in any of the fixings.

The feeling is that it has all come together with a laser-guided precision that wouldn’t feel amiss in an Audi Q5; and were it not for the raised ride height, you’d swear you were in BMW’s latest 5 Series.

Thankfully, the fundamentals remain unsullied, with the optional front sports seats of our test car being expertly positioned – they feel low enough to impart confidence but with enough perch to afford an excellent view of the road ahead – and nicely bolstered.

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There can be no complaints about the amount of space on offer, either, especially along the rear bench, where head room feels endless and the X3’s lengthened wheelbase has liberated a useful tranche of additional leg room.

The angle of those rear seats can also be adjusted individually and they split 40/20/40. Rounding off the X3 as a practical proposition is a load bay that can swallow a very competitive 550 litres, or 1600 litres with the rear seats folded down, and three-zone climate control, which now caters for passengers in the rear seats, as well as differentiating between the driver and front passenger.

The X3 gets BMW’s sixth-generation iDrive infotainment system, but it’s a set-up you have to upgrade to fully unleash.

Picking BMW’s Professional Multimedia option (£680) and then adding the Technology Package (£1545) bundles together gesture control, a wi-fi hotspot, wireless smartphone charging and BMW’s digital instruments.

Music lovers might also want to spend £160 on BMW’s Online Entertainment internet music streaming option and £820 on a Harman Kardon stereo. In short, you can have the system you want – if you pay for it. BMW doesn’t even give you Apple CarPlay as standard.

The upgraded infotainment system does at least strike you as worth its premium. The display is large, crisp, bright and responsive and can be controlled via touchscreen, voice control, gesture control (in only limited ways) and rotary input device.

BMW has also become the first car maker to integrate a Microsoft Exchange email server connection into its cars and the X3 offers this at extra cost, allowing you to edit and send business emails securely.

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