What is it?
You’re eyeing the new 2018 BMW X3 that was launched in April this year. BMW unveiled this third-generation X3 at the 2018 Auto Expo and it is based on the CLAR platform. Its aluminium-intense construction allows it to be 55kg lighter than its predecessor. The new X3 is currently being offered in the xDrive 20d (Expedition, xLine and Luxury Line), and the xDrive 30i (only Luxury Line) variants. For this review, however, we’ve roped in the services of the 20d model in its Luxury Line form. Let’s dive straight in.
This iteration of BMW’s X3 continues with the traditional design language that we are all familiar with - the inconspicuously long nose and the kidney grille. However, the grown-up appearance emanates from a larger grille with tall slats that are heavily cladded in chrome. It even feels thoroughly modern with those partially-hexagonal DRLs that’re tagged to adaptive head lamps.
In profile, it’s definitely the squared-off wheel-wells, prominent creases and chrome-framed quarter-glass which instantly attracts your attention. At the rear, the compact windscreen coupled with the large tail lamps housing sizzling LED graphics that wrap around both edges of the body shell manage to keep the momentum flowing quite well. There’s even a rather bold off-road intent through the bash plate and black cladding all over. The new BMW X3 is undoubtedly pleasing to the eye.
How is it on the inside?
Once seated in the X3, you’ll first appreciate the attractive overall design. The feel-good factor is exemplified by the tan leather that uses beige double-seams that even run across the door pads and dash. Likewise, the plush combo of piano black trim, granite-finish inserts and the lavish use of brushed steel trim makes this cabin look extravagant.
For storage, this BMW gets twin cup-holders on the lower centre console, a wireless charging tray that doubles up for other stowage purposes, a deep centre armrest, wide enclosures on all the door pads and an adequately sized glove-box. But, by far, the real delight is the Harman Kardon 16-speaker music system that gets you totally hooked to your favourite numbers.
You get an iDrive that’s Apple CarPlay compatible, and it also features a DVD drive along with access to a 20GB hard disc on board. Not only does reading from the wide, high-set display while driving feel effortless, the entire experience is richer due to the high resolution. We also found the frame rates to be quick for swift toggling between screens.
As for the front seats, we would have preferred more thigh support. However, there’s adequate back support along with just about the right amount of lateral support. Knee-room is good even for tall occupants and so is the headroom. At the rear, the sloping roofline has resulted in the bench being placed lower to liberate adequate headroom. As a result thigh support isn’t great.
Otherwise, the bench (with recline adjust) has just about the right contours, cushioning and knee room for a comfortable journey. For two that is. Only because the tall transmission tunnel and unfavourable centre cushioning isn’t exactly enticing for the middle passenger. We also noticed that if it wasn’t for the panoramic sunroof, the higher window line could make it seem claustrophobic at the rear.
Having said that, rear seat occupants have the convenience of a three-zone air-conditioner with vents, front seat-back nets and a centre arm rest with cup-holders. Also, the 40:20:40 split folding seats enhance practicality by boosting the 550-litre boot’s luggage carrying capacity. We really liked the manner in which BMW neatly packaged the space-saver spare wheel so that usable boot space isn’t compromised.
How does it drive?
Under that seemingly long hood is BMW’s 2.0-litre diesel engine whose 190bhp is unleashed via an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifts. Hit the engine's start button and you’ll be welcomed by a muffled diesel rattle that’s hardly heard within the cabin. In fact we eventually realised that the cabin itself is well isolated from external noises due to superior insulation.
Even on the move, the absence of any engine noise makes it feel markedly more refined for a diesel powered car. As you mash the throttle, this X3 gets off the mark easily and post 1800rpm, it comes into its own and there’s a nice spread of torque that flows until its 4500rpm rev-limit. BMW claims the new X3 20d can hit 100kmph in 8 seconds. And we can’t help but state that the linear nature of the torque delivery makes driving the X3 a delight.
While there’s more than enough grunt for most situations, it carries out its job effortlessly. What also aides this driving experience is the eight-speed automatic gearbox. With so many gears, it becomes easier for the gearbox to slot into the right gear at the right instant. In Sport mode, punch the accelerator and one will witness quicker responses as the gearbox either holds lower gears, or quickly downshifts into the powerband.
Sure, the drive gets jerky in Sport and the engine gets audible at the limit, but frankly, both aren’t downers. As expected, there’s no such jerks in ‘Comfort’ mode as the power delivery is toned down and gearshifts are performed less aggressively. Drivers also have the choice of toggling between ‘Sport’ and ‘Comfort’ for engine and gearbox responses and a tailor-made driving experience. And, if economy is a priority, then slotting into EcoPro will get the gearbox to upshift in a hurry, and also free-wheel to boost efficiency.
On the whole, the X3 has quite the sorted ride. It gets adjustable dampers that allow you to toggle between ‘Comfort’ and ‘Sport’ modes. In Sport, we felt the extra judders within the cabin at slower speeds while driving over our imperfect roads. But it never felt uncomfortable. However, on switching to ‘Comfort’, the ride improved noticeably. It goes without saying that the well-judged dampers tackles bumps and irregularities quite well without any suspension noise, and is surely the X3’s strength.
As you pick up the pace in Comfort, there is more roll and the characteristic up-and-down movement, but frankly speaking, it never gets to you. As you guessed, these don’t occur in Sport which feels more hunkered down and rides flatter in comparison. We also noticed that the steering tends to feel unnaturally heavier in Sport, but it doesn’t dampen the overall experience since you can still point the X3 in the intended direction and get the desired results. Even braking is confidence inspiring with the right amount of feedback at the pedal.
Should I buy one?
Whoever spent time driving BMW’s new X3 came back with a smile as it tends to grow on you. However, we did sniff out some downers. For one, the steering felt too heavy in Sport, and secondly, both rows lack proper thigh support. Furthermore, not only does the high window line limit visibility, it can make the rear portion feel claustrophobic too. Of course, you could negate the last two by sitting higher by adjusting the driver’s seat (like I did), and also drive with the sun shades rolled-up at all times.
However, what works in the new BMW X3 20d’s favour is the grown-up/modern looks, attractive and premium-feel interiors, favourable ergonomics, a superb-sounding music player, and a usable boot that swells even more due to the 40:20:40 folding bench thrown into the equation. What truly seals the deal, however, is the refined and responsive motor that’s coupled to a smooth transmission, and that sorted ride.
Where does it fit in?
In terms of price, only the Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d Sport, which retails for Rs 63.9 lakh, sits below the BMW X3 20d Luxury Line which costs Rs 68.85 lakh. Audi’s Q5 35 TDI Technology is priced at a considerably higher Rs 74.19 lakhs, and Volvo’s spectacular XC60 Inscription sits at the top of the list at Rs 76.12 lakhs (all on-road Mumbai prices).
Pictures: Kapil Angane