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TESTED: BMW X3 xDrive20d is impressive all round, but getting pricey

Published Mar 25, 2022

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Johannesburg: From its ugly-duckling origins nearly 20 years ago, the BMW X3 has evolved through three generations into something far closer to a swan.

While the original X3 pretty much had the midsize premium SUV (sorry, SAV) market to itself back in 2003, the latest incarnation has rivals like the Audi Q5, Mercedes GLC and Jaguar F-Pace to fend off, so it’s vital that it keeps evolving in a desirable way.

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It seems that’s exactly what BMW has done with the latest evolution, a facelift of the third-generation (G01) model, which was also the first to be built in South Africa as it took over from the 3 Series as BMW SA’s export hero.

While not radical, the recent design changes are certainly purposeful and that larger kidney grille, which fits into a single frame, gives it extra presence out on the street without being over-the-top like some of BMW’s other giant grille creations. The X3 is also available with BMW Laser Light headlights, which have a claimed range of up to 650m.

The new BMW X3 is a good looking SUV, and although I’m not entirely convinced by the fussy-looking redesigned LED taillights, they do add flavour to the back end.

The cabin has been given a more significant update and the dashboard design closely resembles that in the latest 3 Series and 4 Series models.

The new BMW Live Cockpit Professional is standard on the X3, and includes a central touch screen and digital instrument cluster, both measuring 12.3 inches. Featuring the BMW Operating System 7, the set-up features a range of connected services as well as a 12-speaker premium audio system and BMW’s new-generation navigation, which offers route calculation based on real-time traffic data.

There’s also a lot more standard kit in this new X3 model. To that end, all variants come with three-zone climate control, sports seats, automatic tailgate operation, cruise control, ambient interior lighting and a panoramic glass sliding sunroof, among other features.

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The new cabin looks classy and hi-tech, largely thanks to the new satin chrome garnishes and the striking graphics that feature on the new screens.

The BMW X3 is surprisingly practical too, and one of our rear seat passengers commented that it was particularly comfortable, while rear legroom was more than sufficient. This and the boot volume of 550 litres mean the X3 can certainly serve as family transport.

We were also pleased with the driving characteristics of the xDrive20d model we had on test recently.

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BMWs are known for their sporty on-road feel, and the X3 doesn’t disappoint with its agile handling, for an SUV, and intuitive, well-weighted steering. And yet the suspension is anything but hard and uncomfortable. The X3 dishes up a comfortable ride quality and interior noise suppression is impressive too.

The xDrive20d is powered by the familiar 2.0-litre turbodiesel motor, which produces 140kW and 400Nm. And while it’s never going to push you back in your seat, it does provide relatively brisk and effortless performance on a dime, delivered smoothly to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. As for economy, our car drank just over eight litres per 100km in mixed conditions.

But you might also want to give the rear-wheel drive sDrive18d a test drive, considering that it costs almost R100 000 less than the 20d, albeit with lower outputs of 110kW and 350Nm.

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But as desirable as the BMW X3 is as an all-round package, prices have become somewhat steep these days. The aforementioned 18d base model costs R895 658, while getting yourself into the 20d is a R997 176 deal. And that’s before extras. Granted, BMW has improved the level of standard equipment, but our test car arrived with R98 000 worth of options, making it a R1.1 million car.

Its rivals are not exactly cheap either, although the Audi Q5 40TDI does undercut it at R912 000, as does the Mercedes GLC 220d at R952 142. The Jaguar F-Pace D200, on the other hand, commands a hefty R1.16m.

All considered, if you’re willing to pay the price it commands, the BMW X3 xDrive20d is a desirable package that’s stylish, hi-tech, comfortable, practical and satisfying to drive.

FACTS: BMW X3 2.0d

Price: R997 176 (March 2022)

Engine: 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Drive: All-wheel drive

Power: 140kW @ 4000rpm

Torque: 400Nm @ 1750-2500rpm

0-100km/h: 8.0 seconds (claimed)

Top speed: 213km/h (claimed)

Fuel use: 5.6 litres per 100km (claimed)

Fuel use: 8.0 litres per 100km (tested)

Boot capacity: 550 litres

Kerb weight: 1840kg

Ground clearance: 204mm

Towing capacity: 2000kg (braked)

Fuel tank capacity : 68 litres

Warranty: 2-year/unlimited km

Maintenance plan: 5-year/100 000km

IOL Motoring

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