xtra factor: With the focus on ever lower CO2 emissions and improved fuel economy, BMW has launched an entry level X3. Ian Robertson reports
In car years, BMW’s X3 is positively elderly, having first gone on sale in the UK in 2004, yet that hasn’t stopped BMW from continually improving and refining the product. With a new model X3 due on sale next year, and with the new X1 no doubt going to steal some sales, BMW has taken the opportunity to launch a new lower-powered xDrive18d version, with keener CO2 emissions and improved fuel economy.
Despite losing 34bhp compared to the more expensive xDrive20d versions of the X3, the newcomer produces the same amount of torque, and achieves an extra 2.1mpg on the combined cycle. This translates into CO2 emission of 165g/km, meaning the new X3 drops one vehicle excise duty band, and now resides in band G, saving buyers £25 per annum.
Starting the engine for the first time, it’s immediately obvious that BMW has put in the hours when developing this 2.0-litre common rail engine. It is quiet and well composed, even from cold, and delivers punchy performance right through the rev range. Refinement is first class, with decent handling and minimal roll through the bends – just the ride quality lets the overall driving experience down, with an overly firm set up. At motorway speeds, the combination of refined engine and low levels of road and wind noise make for a comfortable cruiser. While many 4x4s can feel big and bulky, the X3 seems to shrink itself around the driver, with agility and manoeuvrability that is absent from many off-roaders.
Climb into the cabin after experiencing more modern BMW interiors and you’ll immediately feel that you’ve gone back to a bygone era. While there’s nothing wrong with the quality or with any of the controls, the design just feels that little bit dated and a touch bland. It does its job, though, and very well indeed – there’s just that feeling that more modern rivals offer that little bit more. A prime example is in the harshness in the sound of the parking sensors, where other BMW models deliver a softer and friendlier chime. The command style driving position is pretty close to perfection, with plenty of adjustment to the steering wheel and seats, while the latter offers decent levels of lateral support. Spaciousness is one of the key attributes of the X3, with generous rear legroom and a decent sized boot.
With a price that starts at £27,870, the X3 is priced in a similar ball park figure as the Q5, yet is more expensive than both the Freelander and Tiguan. Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, a full compliment of safety equipment, parking sensors front and rear, climate control, a leather steering wheel and gearknob, together with four electric windows. As with all BMWs, there’s a lengthy optional extra list, should buyers want to personalise their X3 further.
RIVALS: Audi Q5 2.0 TDI quattro, LAND ROVER FREELANDER TD4_e XS, Volkswagen Tiguan SE 2.0 TDI 4MOTION
- Engine: 1995cc, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 6-speed manual
- Max power: 143bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max torque: 258lb ft at 1,750 to 2,500rpm
- Max towing weight: 1,800kg
- Max speed: 121mph
- 0-62mph: 10.3secs
- Combined consumption: 45.6mpg
- CO2 emissions (taxband): 165g/km (G)
- Bootspace: 480/1,560litres
- Insurance group: 30
Refinement first class, bags of space, generous boot, comfortable driving position
Ageing product, harsh ride, dated cabin, pricey compared to some rivals