Namibia Adventure Safari BMW X3 XDRIVE 20d AT
BMW’s latest X3 is truly a thing of technological wonder. An advanced diesel engine, an eight-speed automatic gearbox, iDrive infotainment system, head-up display system, internet connectivity – the list goes on and on. Oh yes, and run-flat tyres. But how will this advanced SUV fare in Namibia’s harsh Kaokoland?
Despite motoring critic extraordinaire Jeremy Clarkson’s best efforts, BMW’s X3 compact sports activity vehicle (SAV) – as BMW calls it – has managed to sell up a storm across the world, since 2004.
The second generation X3 was launched earlier this year. It is almost as big as the previous generation BMW X5. It has a lot more interior space, and under the skin there’s an amazing array of techno gear.
This BMW, for instance, can connect to the internet. You can specify a fighter pilot-style head-up display system for your X3. Images from a Top View camera in the external mirrors and data from the reverse camera are used to create a composite digital image that shows the X3 and its surrounds from a bird’s eye view.
You can also relax in supreme luxury and safety while the eight-speed automatic gearbox sorts out the details on the road, ably assisted by the 135 kW and 380 Nm turbodiesel engine.
And if you thought this latest version of the X3 might be worse off in an off-road environment than the first-generation model, you’d be mistaken.
The latest X3 is equipped with BMW’s xDrive. The dynamic stability control (DSC) system detects any possible or actual wheelspin and adjusts the power delivery to the individual wheels accordingly – all within a fraction of a second. So xDrive can distribute power between the front and rear axle, and the wheels with the most grip will always have the optimum level of power.
Another distinct xDrive advantage concerns handling on twisty roads (tar or gravel). Here the 4×4 system works in conjunction with the DSC system to not only provide sure-footed and confidence-boosting handling but add a clear sporty edge to proceedings. Dynamic handling is a BMW trademark, and in the X3 it is combined with good ride quality.
All of these attributes make perfect sense in the urban jungle, of course. But what about a place like Namibia, and the rough-and-tough Kaokoland?
Well, the combination of the 380 Nm of torque, the smooth eight-speed gearbox, the xDrive system and the 212mm ground clearance (7mm more than the previous generation X3) and the xDrive20d coped surprisingly well with the dirt roads, the dry riverbed, the ruts, the rocks and everything else in its way.
However, there was one major issue that affected the X3. The Beemer’s Pirelli 18-inch run-flat tyres may be the way of the future, but they certainly proved to be not the way of Namibian dirt roads. To cut a long story short, the BMW crew lost all four tyres to unrepairable punctures. The run-flat technology dictates that no spare wheel needs to be carried – so this unit did not have a spare wheel. It did not even have a wheel spanner.
The situation called for some improvisation and a very big helping of patience from the BMW team (RamsayMedia’s Neil Piper and Dean Dicks). But in the end all was well that ended well. Neil and Dean managed to get the BMW back to Windhoek in one piece.
But there was a lesson in this experience: technology may be very cool, but sometimes simple and less advanced methods work better, especially in a place called Kaokoland.
Fitted with old-fashioned all-terrain tyres this very, very capable BMW will go even farther off the beaten track.
The X3 made its international debut in 2004 – and even though it was an instant hit, it received some stick from critics. The styling, the ride quality, the lack of any meaningful 4×4 abilities and a minimalist interior were all talking points. Top Gear commentator Jeremy Clarkson went so far as to say that the X3 was suitable only for the clinically insane. Clarkson – and other nay-sayers – got it very wrong, though. Since 2004 about 700 000 X3s have been sold, and its success has spawned rivals such as Audi’s Q5 and VW’s Tiguan.
Earlier this year the all-new X3 was launched. Unlike its predecessor that was manufactured by Magna Styer, an Austrian contractor, the latest X3 is put together by BMW’s own plant at Spartenburg, South Carolina.
Bigger, smarter, faster, safer, better looking, better riding and more futuristic than the previous model, the latest X3 seems to tick all the techno and fashion boxes.
Trivia: The fastest BMW X3 in the world is probably right here, in SA. It’s the BMW M3 V8-powered RFS BMW X3 off-road racer.
BMW X3 xDrive20d AT
Engine: Four-cylinder, common-rail injection, turbodiesel
Power: 135 kW @ 4000 r/min
Torque: 380 Nm @ 1750 r/min
Gearbox: Eight-speed automatic
4WD: Full-time xDrive system, DSC traction and stability control
Ground clearance: 212mm
Price: R470 000