JOHANNESBURG, Gauteng – We've experienced our fair share of diesel-powered versions of BMW's latest-generation, locally built X3. The xDrive20d variant took part in our 2019 SUV Shootout while the xDrive30d scored an impressive 81/100 in our April 2018 road test. During a recent visit to Gauteng, though, we were finally able to spent a couple of days with the flagship turbodiesel variant, the M40d.

What is it?

Employing the same basic block as the 30d, the M40d’s uprated 3,0-litre, six-cylinder engine develops 240 kW at 4 400 r/min and 680 N.m at 1 750 r/min. BMW claims a brisk 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 4,9 seconds and a top speed of 250 km/h.

Although the starting price is R1 083 184, our Carbon Black Metallic (no-cost option) unit was fitted with a long list of options that boosted the total to more than R1 220 000. Notable options included double-spoke Style 718 M wheels (R21 300), the driving assist plus system (R33 500), adaptive M suspension (R10 300) and tyre pressure monitoring (R4 500). Of course, we could quite happily have done without a few of options, including BMW’s gesture control (R3 650) and the panoramic sunroof (R21 100).

Behind the wheel

During our time with X3 M40d, there were always between three and five adults on board. And it's in such situations that performance SUVs become properly useful, since all that extra oomph means even a full complement of passengers hardly impacts real-world shove.

The torque available from low in the rev range makes acceleration from low speeds and from mere tickover exceedingly punchy. As has been the case with BMW's oil-burners for many years, this engine is very smooth with hardly any clatter making its way into the cabin. Once on the open road, the M40d virtually idles along at 1 500 r/min at an indicated 120 km/h; at these speeds, it's easy to forget you're driving a diesel as engine noise is really limited.

Although the M40d is no full-fat M Performance SUV, it still ticks several of the boxes one would expect from a sporty SUV. Grip is one of them. With 275/35 R21 tyres at the rear and a 245/40 R21 items up front, there's more than sufficient grip on offer. And despite these big wheels and low-profile tyres, the ride quality is quite impressive.

In addition, sitting on the rear bench behind my ideal driving position, I was left impressed with the available space (both leg- and headroom).

Summary

There's something quite satisfying about driving a product as competent as the X3 M40d and then considering the fact it's manufactured right here in South Africa. I’ve said it before but if your budget can’t quite stretch to an X5, the X3 is a great option. It's only marginally behind the X5 in terms of comfort and technology ... and once you climb behind the wheel, you'll likely be impressed on so many levels.



FAST FACTS

Model: BMW X3 M40d Steptronic Sport
Price: R1 083 184
Engine: 3,0-litre, six-cylinder turbodiesel
Power: 240 kW at 4 400 r/min
Torque: 680 N.m at 1 750 r/min
0-100 km/h: 4,9 seconds
Top Speed: 250 km/h
Fuel Consumption: 6,7 L/100 km
CO2: 176 g/km
Transmission: 8-speed auto
Maintenance Plan: 5-year/100 000 km

See Full BMW X3 price and specs here