The third-generation BMW X3 is available in South Africa and we got to drive two variants at the local launch in Knysna recently. First we piloted the entry-level X3 xDrive20d followed by the range-topping X3 M40i.
As we began driving we quickly noticed how supremely quiet it is inside the xDrive20d’s cabin. There’s no audible rumble coming from the 2.0-litre diesel mill, which produces 140W and 400Nm, mated with an eight-speed Steptronic transmission.
The interior is flawlessly designed, sleek and streamlined, as you would expect from the Bavarian automaker. The central air vents are housed in an elongated hexagonal shape, which is mirrored elsewhere in the cabin and the inside feels quite a bit roomier than that of the previous model.
The heads up display is perfectly vivid and better than some others that we’ve experienced. Another feature that we liked, on the main console, was the option to very subtly highlight (on the speedometre) that you are exceeding the speed limit with a red line.
As for the drive, despite not being the most powerful of the lot, this diesel powered X3 comers beautifully and has enough go on the highway. It’s a fabulous machine, but if you are looking for that extra punchiness, you’ll find it in the X3 M40i of course.
The front double-joint spring strut axle and rear multilink suspension on both models offered a very good balance for comfortable yet firm suspension both on- and off-road.
The steering was also pleasing, except when lane keep assist kicks in – the force with which the steering wheel pulls you back in line is a little disconcerting, although fortunately this feature can be switched off. We found the vehicles to offer great traction on the road and on the gravel, however, the thin band of rubber painted onto the 21-inch wheels would certainly need to be replaced by an off-road tyre to make gravel travel more viable.
The range-topping M40i is powered by a a twin-turbocharged six-cylinder in-line petrol engine, mated to eight-speed Steptronic transmission. We couldn’t test it to the full as our route for the days consisted of dirt roads, tight corners and narrow bridges. We accelerate briskly to feel the power (265kW and 500Nm of torque) once or twice before reaching the winding gravel roads and as can be expected it was full of voomah.
Just like the well-specced xDrive20d that we drove, with sunroof and full leather interior, the X40i had a sublimely luxurious interior. From a personal perspective the we didn’t like the ‘Dark Oak fine wood interior trim strips’ inside this model, but that is all up to personal taste.
The M Sport model gets a sports braking system highlighted by blue-painted callipers, a more dramatic wheel design and the optional exterior paint shade Phytonic Blue. And the new BMW X3 can now also be specified with BMW Individual features such as the exclusive Sunstone metallic exterior paint finish.
In its basic specification, the new BMW X3 now rides on 18-inch light-alloy wheels (previously 17-inch), while wheels up to 21 inches in diameter are available depending on the specification and engine variant.
Pricing for standard models
X3 xDrive20d eight-speed Auto Steptronic R684 200
X3 xDrive30i eight-speed Auto Steptronic R739 800
X3 xDrive30i Sports eight-speed Auto Steptronic R742 800
X3 xDrive30d eight-speed Auto Steptronic R868 300
X3 xDrive30d Spots eight-speed Auto Steptronic R871 300
X3 M40i Sports eight-speed Auto Steptronic R991 100
Five-year/100 000km maintenance plan.