Review: BMW X3 xDrive20d ESBy Chris Walsh
February 28, 2011
Not so long ago, owning an SUV basically meant you hated Polar Bears. Now though, the arrival of BMW’s lovely new X3 means your conscience can be clearer than the arctic tundra they live in.
People do get extremely het up about SUVs. Granted, they aren’t going to be the most efficient way to get your kids to school, and the ‘I’m-higher-therefore-better’ intimidation tactic never ceases to annoy. But one of the main reasons why our roads are littered with these resource-burning, toned-down armoured personnel carriers is simple: they are safe, and safety outranks efficiency, especially when sprogs are involved.
But more recently, the relentless war on the motorist means you need a bank account similar to Switzerland’s to actually keep it on the road. The tide has definitely turned against SUV ownership as the environmental impact and financial pressures don’t look like relenting. BMW understand this. Step forward the new, BMW X3 xDrive20d ES, which can claim to be the first proper SUV that won’t cost the earth to work.
For a car the weights the automotive equivalent to Stonehenge, some of the stats the BMW generates are actually quite bizarre. For example, the X3 returns 50.4mpg combined, which unbelievably, is better than a Ford Ka, a car that weighs the same as a helium balloon. CO2 emissions also sit in the realms of impossibility, because the X3 emits just 149g/km, which is so low that its more comparable to an electric toothbrush.
Powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine, the manual X3 delivers 180bhp at 4,000rpm and 380Nm of torque between 1,750 and 2,750rpm. This results in a 0-62mph time of 8.5 seconds and a top speed of 130mph. Bolt on the automatic transmission and identical levels of acceleration, top speed and fuel consumption are achieved but an even lower CO2 (147g/km) is emitted. These reductions in emissions are partly thanks to the X3 being the first BMW model in the UK to team automatic Start-Stop technology with the eight-speed automatic transmission and six-speed manual. A 3.0litre diesel is available, but BMW expect the 2.0litre diesel to account for approximately 80 per cent of all sales.
Naturally, the X3 is full of tech and top of the list is something called Variable Damper Control. Basically, the electronically controlled dampers adapt to road surface conditions and the style of driving automatically. Or, if the driver prefers, can influence the action of the dampers via the Drive Dynamic Control System. This function enables you to choose between Normal, Sport and Sport+ settings using a button on the centre console. As well as damping behaviour, this system automatically adjusts the character of the accelerator, engine response, power steering weight and the automatic transmission’s shifting dynamics.
As standard, the new BMW X3 comes with ‘xDrive’ permanent four-wheel drive technology, which is an electronically controlled system that ensures variable distribution of drive to the front and rear axles. Linked to the Dynamic Stability Control, xDrive can counteract oversteer or understeer at an extremely early stage to help control the car through bends by sending increased drive to the rear wheels and, if needed, individually brake the inside rear wheel to increase the car’s mid-bend agility and traction. As well as other UK specific equipment packages and innovations like Head-up Display and online connectivity, the new BMW X3 is making a serious statement of intent, to become one of the most technical and drivable SUVs on the road.
The new BMW X3 is also aiming to set a new benchmark with the interior of the car too. There is a significantly upgraded cabin, high-grade materials galore and a raft of sector-first technology. As always, the asymmetrical instrument panel and centre console is orientated towards the driver, while the latest generation iDrive, with optional 8.8” high-resolution screen ensures all infotainment capabilities are simple to navigate and easy to understand.
With a volume between 550 and 1,600 litres, the luggage compartment of the new BMW X3 is also one of the best in its segment. But it is not just about pure volume – useable space is essential. The X3 comes with an adaptable interior that can be changed to suit most people’s requirements. The rear seat backrests can be split 60:40 as standard or as an option 40:20:40 where the three segments can be folded down either individually or together, adapting the luggage compartment according to requirements.
The new BMW X3 xDrive20d SE is better value than its predecessor. It is actually £115 less than the outgoing model, yet is equipped with all manner of standard features like Nevada leather upholstery, two-zone air conditioning, iDrive controller and colour display. The X3 can also be personalised with a range of specific features. The choice of options range from a panoramic sunroof to high-end audio equipment and a Professional Multimedia package with hard-disk storage to an automatic boot lid operation with an electronically pivoting tow bar. The choice of systems offered under the BMW ConnectedDrive driver assistance banner also include Head-up Display, Adaptive Headlights, High-beam Assistant and reversing camera including Top View, giving a 360-degree panoramic view for the driver.
Model: BMW X3 xDrive20d ES
Price From: £31,135
0-60: 8.5 seconds
MPG: 50.4 Combined
CO2 emission: 149g/km
2010/2011 VED 1st Year Rate (showroom tax): £125pa
2010/2011 VED Standard Rate: £125pa