Time to let out a deep sigh because the December holidays are over. A time for friends, family and laughter and not giving a damn about fitness or the scale too. For majority of us, everyday for the past 3 weeks or so felt like Sunday. The pace was slow, you woke up late and there was absolutely no rush to go anywhere, but as a city slicker like most people we all faced an issue when people came over to visit or stay over, and that was car space. If you are fortunate enough to have something bigger than a hatchback or small sedan, you had no issue, but I did.
The main hustle over any holiday period with friends or family is always car space when travelling, it's always awesome to have someone who has a bigger car, but even better when it is your own set of wheels. As I settle in to life and spend more time with close friends and family, outings and road trips become a more common thing so the thought of ditching the hot hatch or fast compact saloon becomes a reality and SUVs seem like more of an option. This brings me to my time last year when BMW sent me to review the all new and soon be locally produced X3.
As you might of guessed it, and to answer your questions, the X3 at a glance does share a bit of similarities to the outgoing BMW X5, and in the package this sports activity vehicle is basically a baby X5, where as that car is big for a large family and household, the X3 seems to be aimed at the 2+2 family and explorers. It is perfectly proportioned and bigger too than its previous versions, the new model is 78 mm longer in size and the wheelbase is extended by another 54 mm. Luggage capacity is kept at 550 litres, just like the previous gen.
The interior is gorgeous. If you are familiar with the new 7 and 5 Series then this may be a familiar sight. Your drive will be a mix of rich leathers and either brushed aluminium or wood inserts on the dash followed by a flood of technology like the new digital intrument display, gesture controls and reworked centre console with new screen, climate controls and gear selector.
The new X3 looks great, at first glance it can be very agressive and butch-looking but after sometime it makes sense to you, as a mid-size SUV you would want it to look just like that. The body is raised, clearance is good and as the pictures suggest, very capable off road even in M Sport form. The model I had was the top of the range M40i which features all the M Performance extras and added grunt to go with it. The car comes with a 3 litre straight six engine that's turbocharged to give out 265 kW and 500 Nm of torque. 0-100 kph takes only just 4.8 seconds. To put that into perspective, the E92 M3 V8 did it in that time so you won't be a slouch at the traffic lights no more.
The rest of the X3 models comprise of a X3 30i, a 2 litre turbocharged motor with 185 kW, an X3 20d, a 2 litre turbocharged diesel with 140 kW but my personal pick of the bunch, the 30d, which has 195 kW and 620 Nm of torque and claims just 6.0L/100 km. It has the best power, toque and fuel economy from its 3 litre straight six turbocharged diesel. You cannot fault this engine in any BMW and I may be biased but I don't see any other 3 litre diesel coming as close to this. It simply is perfection.
The Money Question.
The 20d starts at R684 200, the middle ranger 30i goes for R739 800, my winner and best pick 30d goes for R868 300, and if all you care about is speed then prepare to fork out R991 100 for the M40i. All X3 models sold in South Africa come with BMW's xDrive 4 wheel drive, An 8-speed Automatic Transmission, with optional sport box available as an option, except for the X3 M40i, where it is standard. Also included are 4 levels of trim: Standard, xLine, Luxury Line and M Sport package.
If you are looking for an all round, premium mid size SUV then the X3 is all the car you need. Space is plenty for families and travel, engines are great and offer good economy, interiors have taken a huge leap and have an incredible premium compared to the old versions and the looks of semi off roader with street appeal is a winner. The X3 has proper class and credibility to throw around now and sure, its competition have launched some great cars in the last few years but to set a close benchmark, the X3 really does hold its own. I honestly feel owning and living with this car comes down to choice and what suits you best. When the car arrives for a proper home test later this year I can tell you what it will be like to own, but for now, good on you BMW, this is a solid effort and start to 2018.