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.