I was taken aback by the size of the new BMW X3 standing outside my house after it had been delivered for a week’s loan.
Neil Lyndon experiences the excellent BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport
Actually, the right words in that sentence should be “I was taken back” because the mass of the X3 put me in my mind of the first appearance of BMW’s X5 nearly 20 years ago. Based on the 5 Series saloon of the time, that X5 – the first luxury SUV BMW ever produced – was unquestionably a large car. Yet, looking at the new X3 – which is supposedly part of the compact 3 Series - I felt certain it was longer, taller and wider than the original X5.
My intuition was correct. This X3 is bigger than that X5 in every dimension and confirms that fact everywhere you look. The boot space is massive (bigger than an Audi Q5). The wide and fabulously comfortable seats put the driver and front-seat passenger at a height which is almost as commanding as a Discovery’s. Rear-seat leg-room is more than enough for anybody topping six feet. The comparison even extends to the price. The near-£50,000 all-in price of the two-litre M Sport version I borrowed would have bought two of the original X5s.
In this respect, the new X3 is like the latest Ford Fiesta, which is bigger than the original Focus and the latest VW Golf which is bigger than the original Passat. Nearly all manufacturers are making their models bigger in order to make more money out of them; but where will it end? Will the next 3 Series be the size of the original 7 Series?
I had plenty of time to meditate over the questions while the X3 stood outside my house. The minutes ticked by while I waited for the car to allow me to go anywhere.
There’s space to park three cars at the front of my house but you have to negotiate quite a narrow passage to get into it. When I tried to reverse the X3 out of the space, its sensors detected the house wall behind and immediately slammed on all the brakes with a commanding finality that shook everybody in their seats. The system simply wouldn’t countenance the possibility that the driver might know the way around his own house. It refused to allow one more inch of backwards movement. After several failed attempts to override this electronic busybody, I surrendered to its higher power, drove forward and then reversed in a wider arc.
It didn’t take long to get over this impudent insult. Within moments of driving on the open road, I found myself saying “At last, a car of true excellence.”
Everybody agrees today that there is no such thing as a bad car. It doesn’t necessarily follow, however, that all cars are good. If you have experienced a succession of sub-compact crossover SUVs – which seems to be the only kind of car the industry is producing these days – you may start to think that all of them share equal quality. And then along comes a car like the X3 to prove how ordinary they are, in truth, and remind you what an excellent car actually feels like.
Wow, the X3 is terrific! The 190 bhp output of the two-litre version I borrowed doesn’t sound much but it cranks out that power with a proper zip. Acceleration from 0-60 in under eight seconds is more than enough to see off slow-moving traffic on country roads and the scintillating 5 Series chassis on which this car sits makes it a delight to drive through twisty sections. All versions of the X3 now come with BMW’s xDrive four-wheel drive system and the eight-speed automatic transmission on our test car was so fast and responsive that it would be hard to beat manually. Handling is so capable and resilient that you forget altogether that you are at the wheel of such a high car.
BMW claim that the off-road capabilities of the X3 have been significantly improved but I didn’t have the opportunity to test that claim. However, I doubt if it’s as far from the truth as their claim that this car is capable of an average of 56.5 mpg. I never saw anything better than 44.4 mpg in my week with the car. That figure may, however, give some indication of the extent to which I enjoyed this car.
Car reviewed: BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport - Price as tested with options - On the road £48,655 0-62mph 8.0 secs Top speed 132mph Fuel Economy combined 54.3mpg CO2 emissions 144g/km Engine 1995cc Diesel 4-cylinder EU6 Max Power 190hp@4000rpm Torque 400Nm@1750rpm Transmission 8-speed automatic with manual mode
A delight to drive
Reminds you what an excellent car feels like
Fast and responsive
Why so big?
What the others say on YouTube about the BMW X3...
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