New BMW X3: smarter, faster, dearer – but is it better?
GEORGE, Western Cape. – With the launch of the third-generation X3, BMW not only hopes to build on the premium SUV’s heritage, but also the company’s proud history of producing cars in South Africa for the international market.
Some R6-billion is being invested in Plant Rosslyn west of Pretoria, where current production of the 3-Series will cease in April 2018 to make way for the new X3. The locally built models will be sold at home as well as in Europe, while plants in the US and China will cater for the rest of the world.
The all-new X3 is a far cry from the awkward looking original, but less of a leap when compared to its immediate predecessor. With more sculpted details and a generally sharper look, the overall design is more cohesive, with a stronger presence.
Mirroring BMW’s approach with other model ranges, the X3 is offered in three different trim levels – xLine, Luxury Line and M Sport. All offer specific detailing that highlight the visual character of each.
The interior has taken a marked step forward, and is now more luxurious, more technologically advanced and more attractive. Redesigned switchgear and top quality materials are matched to a sculpted centre stack that offers an eye catching mix of finishes.
Technology highlights include the optional BMW Connected Drive (which includes real-time traffic info and various online services), as well as BMW’s Visual Key. First introduced with the current 7-Series, Visual Key has a touchscreen built into the car’s key fob, which can display info such as fuel level and servicing, and can also remotely switch on the car’s heating.
The initial X3 line-up will be made up of 2,0-litre and 3,0-litre turbo petrol models, as well as 2,0-litre and 3,0-litre turbodiesels. The entire range is fitted with all-wheel drive and an eight-speed Steptronic automatic gearbox as standard.
BMW will introduce a pair of lower powered 2,0-litre petrol options in 2018, one of which will be rear-wheel drive.
On the launch on the Garden Route, we opted for the top of the range X3 M40i, with a 265 kW / 500 Nm six-cylinder turbo petrol mill. Right from start-up, there is an indication from the exhaust note that this is no ordinary compact SUV.
That’s vindicated on the move: the M40i impresses with genuine pace and a level of involvement from the chassis that is very engaging.
We sampled a mix of dirt and tar, including some rain-soaked sections, and the X3 M40i remained confident, grippy and enjoyable throughout, accompanied by the constant rumbling, crackling and popping from the sports exhaust system.
Priced at just under R1-million, the X3 M40i might require a fairly substantial investment, but it’s still cheaper than any of its direct rivals. We’ll have a full review on our YouTube channel soon! – SPIKE BALLANTINE
BMW X3 model line-up
X3 M40i In-line six-cylinder turbo petrol, 2 998 cc. 265 kW/500 Nm R1 000 676
X3 xDrive 30i In-line four-cylinder turbo petrol, 1 998 cc. 185 kW/350 Nm R 745 956
X3 xDrive 30d In-line six-cylinder turbodiesel, 2 993cc. 195 kW/620 Nm R 873 088
X3 xDrive20d In-line four-cylinder turbodiesel, 1 995cc 140 kW/400 Nm R 687 506