BMW X3 Driven


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Are you someone, who believes that it’s not about how much power your car makes, but it’s about how it’s getting transferred to the wheels? Are you someone who loves to be in control over everything that’s happening around your car? Are you someone who loves deeper and richer bass while listening to your music library? Are you someone who understands the concepts of understeer and oversteer? And are you someone who uses the words sophistication and simplicity in the same breadth?

If you are that someone, then I think we found the perfect SUV for you- The BMW X3. Why are we saying so... read on.

Before we get into telling you, how X3 fits your requirements, lets quickly look at the history of the crossover. The BMW X3, is in production since the 2003. Based on the BMW 3 Series platform and hence the nomenclature 3, is now in its third generation. BMW markets this crossover globally a Sports Activity Vehicle, that is the company’s proprietary descriptor for its X-line of vehicles. The first generation model was code named E83, the second generation was called F25 and the latest one, the third generation that we reviewed is called G01.

Launched globally in the month of June 2017, BMW India launched this crossover in India in April 2018.

Let us look at this Beamer, shall we.

Design Language - Exteriors

The new BMW X3 is a family friendly SUV and no doubt a very sensible one at that. Having said that, BMW’s also have a reputation of being fun to drive and this X3 is no exception to that too. BMW also has gained a reputation for making luxurious and posh-feeling cars, and the X3 again is no exception here too.

From the front profile perspective, the hallmark for any BMW cars over the years have been the kidney grill and the double barrel headlights. You know it’s a BMW that’s approaching you with these two trademark looks. And the X3 is reminiscent of that. The only thing this time is that the Kidney Grill has grown bigger in size and now sports an active air-dam. What it means is that the slats between the grill open and shut basis the engine temperature to provide extra cooling, if need be. Apart from the bigger grill, headlamps have gone from being bi-xenon to being fully Adaptive and LED, which house an auto levelling function and dynamic high beam function, both of which lit up the road well, thus reducing the fatigue for the driver associated with poor visibility. The fog lamps have gone from being halogen bulbs to LED’s too, which do the job of illuminating the road up front very well. All in all the car looks grown up now and that shows in the interiors too.

The side profile is absolutely clean. The chrome surround around the window pane, breaks the monotony, in a good way I would say. From this side angle, any untrained eyes, can end up confusing this X3 for the X5. No, I am not saying the X3 is as huge as the X5, but the larger bonnet, larger wheel arches, which house 19 inch alloys and the more accentuated and substantial tail-lights and the bumper, give it a X5 look.

Moving to the rear, the all LED taillights add extra character to the crossover combined with low-slung roof spoiler give it a sporty stance. The X3 sports an automatic tailgate operation, which gives easy access to the boot and also allows convenient opening and closing of the tailgate.

Speaking of the boot, the X3 has 550 litres of boot space which is extendable all the way up to a maximum of 1600 litres by folding the rear seats in 40/20/40 combination, basis the requirements. Overall, I would say this X3 has the right proportions and looks and feels the price that it charges from the customers. Which in my honest opinion is a good thing to happen.

Design Language- Interiors

Once you are inside the car, the first thing that you notice is how premium everything that you touch or see feels. The quality of materials used in the new X3 are right up there with their 5 series and 7 series models. Everything that you touch feels expensive and built for purpose and built to last. The haptic feedback from the buttons is brilliant, and everything is well laid out and well within the reach of the driver. The dashboard as usual, like any other BMW is slightly tilted towards the driver.

Talking about the dashboard, the dashboard is flanked by 10.25 inch centre console display and an additional 12.3 inch multi-function instrument display, for the driver which throws all the information right in the front of the driver at the flick of a stalk.

The ambient lighting in the X3 is more pronounced with six dimmable colour options (Orange, Lilac, Mint, Bronze, Blue and White) to suit every individuals taste and needs. The I-drive is now more intuitive to use with menus stacked up sequentially, making it easier to scroll through them. The storage space below the centre console houses wireless charging pad, which also wirelessly pairs the iPhone for Apple CarPlay. Good feature to have, as it frees the cabin from all kinds of cables.

The front seats are a comfortable place to be, they offer good back-rest and have decent under-thigh support. Though, at this price point I would have loved under-thigh support extenders, just like in the Volvo XC60, or BMW’s own 530D.

I reckon that, if you are going to buy the X3, you got to be in the drivers’ seat, but most of the owners are going to spend lot of their time in the second row, and BMW has smartly ensured that this driver oriented crossover, has few things up its sleeve for the sethji sitting in the middle row too.

For starters, the seats have recline option, where you can recline the seat and simply doze off while your chauffeur drives you home after putting a hard day at work. A three-zone climate control AC ensures that you are at best comfortable, whatever the temperature outside and should the heat rise up on the outside, you have manual blinds on the rear windows to help you maintain not only your privacy but cool temperatures inside the cabin. The car offers decent headroom and knee-room. The seat cushioning should have been on a softer side, but that’s hardly a reason to complain.

Panoramic Sunroofs are a must have in this segment, heck it is even present in SUV’s one or two segment below, point in case the updated Jeep Compass. Owing to the size of the X3, the panoramic sunroof gives an airy feeling to the SAV, it also helps to lighten up the interiors in the day time.

The feature list in the X3 though exhaustive, it certainly misses out on quite a few must have features expected at this price point. For starters, it does not come with a 360 degree camera, strangely, even does not have passive keyless entry, in spite of having the digital key. There are no cornering lamps which the competition offers and it also misses on memory seats for the co-passenger. Wishful thinking could be a 4 zone climate control AC and a Full TFT Display, aka Audi style.

In Car Entertainment

In India BMW offers the X3 in two trims, x Line Edition and the xDrive Luxury Line Edition. We had the Luxury Line Variant for the review with us, which has the 10.25 inch centre console screen also doubles up audio system for the crossover.

Powering this 10.25 inch audio screen is 16 speakers, 600 watts high end surround system from Harmon Kardon, which boasts of high fidelity sound. The bass notes are deeper and richer. Connectivity options include wireless Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth and USB. While the Bowers and Wilkins setup in the Volvo XC60 blows your mind away, the Harmon Kardon system in the X3 is not far behind.

The X Line Edition has to do with a smaller screen (6.5 inch/non touch), misses out on the Harman Kardon sound system instead comes with 12 speaker hi-fidelity audio speakers and misses on the display key too.

From the second row, should we jump in back in the front row and see how is the X3 from behind the wheel? But before we go there, lets have a look at the key, shall we.

The Display Key

BMW introduced the display key first in their flagship 7 Series Sedan, followed it up with their 5 Series range, and now is available as standard with the Luxury Line Variant. We truly live in a connected and wirelessly wired era, where, even the car key needs to be charged. But don’t fret yet, the wireless charging pad below the centre console, helps to charge the key. On one full charge, we used the key for 3 days, before the battery level dropping to minimum levels.

While in the 5 and the 7 series, the display key has options of parking and un-parking the car remotely, in the X3, the usage is restricted to keep the driver informed about the range, service due reminders, remotely Pre-conditioning the car to start and letting him/her know if the car is secured or unsecured.

Performance- Engine and Gearbox

With the key in your pocket, brake pedal depressed, fire up the engine by pressing the start-stop button, and the first thing that clicks you is the diesel rattle. Well, its missing. The diesel rattle is well muffled, and the cabin feels isolated from the outside world. BMW has used acoustic glazing on the windscreen to lower noise levels. Invariably at any rpm, the engine remains muted at most of the time.

Powering this X3, is the BMW’s bread and butter, 2 litre four cylinder diesel engine churning out 190 HP of power and 400 NM of torque. This mated to the ZF designed 8-speed automatic gearbox, the progress though brisk, is not in the territory of X1 brisk. Hold on, aren’t the BMW’s more fun to drive amongst the entire bunch of cars available on the planet? Sure, this X3 is engaging to drive. You will never want to park the car and go home. But this chassis demands more power, and that’s where I felt, had this car come with the X30d line of engines, this would have been a different animal all together.

Having said this, while we had the X20D for review, BMW now offers the X3 in petrol engine option too. For the enthusiasts in you, this X3, X30i churns, 252 HP of power and 350 NM of torque and 0-100 dash comes just under 6.5 seconds. Sounds exciting? Then you must definitely check the variant out and test drive it at your nearest dealership.

Performance- Ride, Handling and Drivability

The current BMW X3, is definitely and noticeably better than the outgoing car. While the outgoing car had an engine clatter filtering inside the cabin, this one, is absolutely silent. The 8 speed gearbox responds very well and it helps keeping pace with traffic, most of the times. X line, means AWD, but this Beamer is rear biased and that makes the X3 more sportier to drive. What it means is, show the SUV some twisty roads, and the crossover attacks those twisty roads as if you are driving a sedan. And while doing so, remains composed as a sedan too. Much of this is attributed to stiffly set suspension. The X3, in Luxury Line Edition comes with adaptive suspensions, which means, while selecting various modes in the car, the suspension pre-adjust’s itself basis the mode chosen.

Eco-Pro mode is more tuned towards economical driving and extracting more fuel efficiency. It alters the throttle inputs and makes the steering tad lighter. Switch the the comfort mode, the suspension softens up, the steering weighs up well and the car upshifts or downshifts gears pretty early. This is your everyday mode to use the car, as it soaks the potholes and bumps very well in this mode.

Sport mode, is for the enthusiasts in you, the suspension becomes stiffer, throttle inputs become sharper and the steering heavier. With slightest dab on the accelerator, the suv surges ahead to close the gap. The steering inputs become sharper owing to the added weight, and the driver in you exactly knows what the wheels are doing and directional changes happen in a jiffy. There is never an unsettling moment in the car, generally associated with SUV’s of this size. They call the BMW’s The Ultimate Driving Machine and the X3, stands true to this legacy. Yes, it may scream to want a 3 litre diesel under its hood, but this 2.0 litre, is no slow couch either. 0-100 dash comes in roughly 7.8 seconds, which for this size SUV, is commendable. A need for more powerful motor is felt on those higher revs, where the progress doesn’t corroborate with the revs that climb. However, for every day use, you are very rarely going to reach 4500 rpm and above.

All in all, I would say, a very good car to have, its easy to drive, easy to use, you sit up high, have a good commanding view of the road ahead, has a decent size rear window, keeps you updated with all the action behind, and keeps the occupants comfortable during your long drives.

The Verdict

BMW roughly sold roughly 11,105 cars in the last financial year. 50% of it came from their SAV range comprising of the X1, X3, recently launched X4 and the flagship for now the X5. Out of the four SAV’s X3 raked in more numbers, as it was more complete SUV as compared to the other three.

This confidence in buyers comes significantly from the way the X3 delivers on the lines of decent performance with economy, right size with right footprint, comfort and luxury, that you would expect from this price bracket.

Truth be told, the BMW X3 didn’t wow us or the bystanders the way, say the Volvo XC60 did. Nobody asked us, “kitne ka hain?” Something that we had got used to when the Volvo XC60 was us.

But that doesn’t mean you discount the car yet. There are something’s that this SAV does perfectly right.

For starters, though it may have 190 horsepower engine below the hood, but it never feels or drives lousy. The perfect 50:50 weight distribution ratio, coupled with rear wheel biased transfer of power, you are going to have fun, every time you are behind the wheel. The agility of the car is absolutely stunning. Sure it feels inadequate on the paper, but in real world situations, it can give few other SUV’s with more power, a run for its money. No wonder we were saying, it’s not about how much power you make, but how it gets delivered.

If driver oriented cockpit is what excites you, look no further than this X3, everything is in perfect place and is easy reach of the commander. The i-Drive is intuitive, is fast to respond, has handwriting recognition for few things and seamless to use. It allows you to be in the control of the car, at all times.

The 600 watts, Harmon Kardon system delivers stunning audio quality. The bass is rich and deeper, and unlike other systems, it does not distort the vocals or the mids. In short, whether you are listening to the ghazals or retro or EDM, the your music is going to sound good, without being jarring.

The dashboard though is a typical BMW affair, not only is it reminiscent of the other modern BMW’s in the line-up, but it’s well put together and rakes quality all around. Is well laid out, brings in sophistication with crisper screens in the centre and in the driver console, yet has buttons which provide crisp haptic feedback to bring in that dash of simplicity.

All in all, I would say, if You, are the you, who loves to be in total command of the car, loves your bass notes, wants a modern, sophisticated, yet simple SUV, a SUV, which may not make people turn around twice, but will make a statement when you arrive, the BMW X3, is for that You.

Available in two engine options and three trims between them and prices ranging between INR 56 lacs ex-showroom to 59 lacs ex-showroom, basis your choice and requirements, you can opt for any one that you prefer.

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About Author
Nilesh Sawant
Nilesh Sawant

With an experience of over 3 lac kms of driving across the continents and with extensive experience of driving on the tracks, and passion for technical things around anything on wheels, reviews written by Nilesh are crisp and to the point.  

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