It’s one of those nicer problems to have – the stylists, engineers and product planners all got it right the first time and now that it’s time for that Life Cycle Impulse (LCI), there is precious little to fettle or refine when it comes to the BMW X3. Under pressure to change something stylists can sometimes end up trying too hard and over-styling things, but it’s fair to say that the team in Munich got this one just right.
The one-piece kidney grille is now slightly bigger – fortunately wider, not taller – and combined with 10 mm shallower headlamps and a restyled front bumper, give the front end a cleaner and more striking appearance. The rear end changes include an aluminium-look rear diffuser, redesigned taillights with deeply sculpted lenses, and flush fitting tailpipes.
On the BMW X3 M40i the lower area of the rear bumper has a gloss black finish while the twin tailpipe finishers each have a two-pipes-in-one shape. Wheel rim diameters are up by an inch on all derivatives, while all derivates now feature a digital instrument cluster, 12,3-inch infotainment screen and easier-to-use air conditioner controls.
The product planners have taken note of the options most frequently specified by buyers and have now included a number of these as standard in the revised model line-up. At first glance, the price list increases came as a bit of a shock, but a quick check confirmed that the upgraded standard specifications account for most of the increment.
Two derivatives of the BMW X3 were provided for evaluation, the M40i – undoubtedly the fun version – and the xDrive20d, which is the best seller in the range and clearly the sensible choice. First up was the M40i with its familiar turbocharged straight six developing 285 kW and 500 N.m. Overtaking quickly became a highlight – bury your right foot, let the responsive eight-speed ZF auto quickly engage the right gear, and the linear power delivery catapults you on your way, the characteristic straight six howl punctuated by a satisfying pop at each upshift. Shift paddles are fitted but were hardly necessary, so responsive was the gearshift.
Ride quality on the standard 21-inch wheels was really dependent on the suspension setting selected; the Comfort setting coping surprisingly well with some of the broken and patched surfaces encountered, while the Sport setting was best kept for smoother surfaces in the interests of ride comfort and directional stability. Steering response and accuracy made it easy to forget that you were driving a two-tonne SUV, while overall noise levels and refinement were excellent.
The 2,0-litre turbodiesel mill had a hard act to follow but one was soon comfortable with its more relaxed demeanour, and quickly understood why this was seen as the sweet spot of the range. First impressions were of an extremely well isolated engine – no vibrations and barely a hum at cruising speeds. In fact, its exceptional refinement initially made the engine feel slightly underpowered but a few brisk overtakes and a quick check to confirm the eight second 0 – 100 km/h time confirmed that it was more than up to the task. Ride quality on the 19” wheels complimented the overall refinement and my fuel consumption of about 6,0 L/100km will definitely be improved upon at steady highway speeds.
Its positioning as a mid-size, upmarket, family SUV makes the X3 a particularly important vehicle in BMW’s current line-up, more so for BMW SA where local production has exceeded 200 000 units since its introduction in 2018. As segment volume leader, it is clearly well accepted by local buyers and the changes should ensure that it stays that way. Potential buyers need not be deterred by those apparently steep price increases; they represent a new pricing philosophy and it’s quite probable that unlike before, you won’t be specifying any costly options to add to that list price.
By Graham Eagle