BMW, the luxury carmaker of the German trio (others are Mercedes-Benz and Audi), has always been associated as the makers of 'the driver's car.' Not that other automakers roll out cars with less fun to drive but BMW has a special inclination to satiate those who actually want to get behind the wheels than being chauffeured.
Having said that the X3 SUV of the previous generations were not considered as a driver's vehicle. Launched in the global markets in 2003, the first generation of the X3 was half-baked in many ways while the second generation launched in 2013 was still merely OK by BMW's high standards.
Increased interest towards SUVs around the world means one in every three cars that leaves a BMW showroom these days is an X model. Hence, BMW has taken that extra step when they decided to bring the third generation of the X3 last year with improvisation in every aspect. Moreover, BMW has no room for error as the competition is now intensified with the likes of Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Jaguar F-Pace and others.
BMW had launched the third generation X3 in India this year. It is offered in diesel (xDrive 20d) and petrol (xDrive 30i) variants. International Business Times India took the diesel variant for a spin to know more about the SUV.
The 2018 BMW X3 comes with a more evolved and sharper design. At first glance, one may get confused whether it is X3 or X5. Thanks to the increased dimensions, the new X3 is longer, wider and a couple of millimetres taller than the outgoing model. Take a closer look; the new X3 looks more like a scaled-down version of the X5.
There are new hexagonal lights and a bigger, more muscular '3D' kidney grille up front. While the second generation X3 has integrated inlay for headlights and grille, the new version gets separated units. The larger 'squared' wheel arches, new alloy wheels and chrome touch on the side skirts add freshness to the side profile. At the rear, a redesigned set of optional LED taillights and a pair of sporty exhaust pipes with chrome garnish are the new additions. Overall, the design is more of an evolution than a revolution.
One of the biggest advancements in the X3 is the adoption of new CLAR platform that's used by the 3, 4,5,6,7 Series cars as well as many other X range of SUVs. It is complemented by aluminium doors and bonnet. BMW claims these additions made the new X3 stiffer and 55kg lighter than the one it replaces.
Interior and features
Get inside and the SUV will welcome you with typical BMW-ish driver-centric dashboard layout. The layered design of dashboard in the outgoing version has given way to a flowing design with the more integrated stance in line with the new 5 series. The fit, finish and tactile feel of the premium seat upholstery remain top notch. The iDrive is even easier to use now and 12.3-inch multifunction instrument display is now touch-operable. The new X3 interior is optimized for cabin noise insulation and the SUV gets adjustable rear seat backrest, rear window sunblind, enlarged panoramic roof and 600 Watts high-end Surround Sound system from Harman Kardon. BMW Display Key, rear-view camera with park assist and wireless charging are the other new additions in the 2018 BMW X3.
The increase of wheelbase liberates more legroom for second-row passengers and Indian buyers will certainly appreciate that. The sunroof channels a lot of natural lights inside the cabin and is complemented by a high seating position and large glass panels, giving all the passengers a commanding view from the new X3. The seats are comfortable but you may crave for better lumbar support for front seats.
Engine and transmission
We drove the diesel variant, which is powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit that develops 190hp of power at 4,000rpm and a maximum torque of 400Nm from 1,750rpm. The engine is mated to an eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission. BMW claims the new X3 can accelerate from zero to 100kmph in just 8 seconds.
How is the new X3 felt like to drive?
Press the start button and one will easily recognise how silent the SUV is despite being powered by a diesel motor. BMW has definitely succeeded in providing better insulation. One cannot miss the level of refinement achieved by the new X3 as well. The new X3 is certainly a step up when it comes to interior upgrade.
Bury the throttle and you will be waiting for the surge of power. Yes, the 2.0-litre unit comes with turbo lag till about 2,000rpm. The progress is linear and controlled till 2,000rpm and once it crosses the X3 gets effervescent to drive. The engine losses breathe only at the top-end of the rev range and by then the X3 will be in the other end of three digit speeds. The whole vehicle dynamics changes when shifted to Sport mode. The acceleration turns brisk and the revs hold on much higher. The paddle shifters just add to the overall fun factor of driving the new X3.
Interestingly, the 2018 X3 is offered without dedicated off-road driving mode. However, the xDrive AWD system does the job delightfully in mild off-road trails. It also helps the SUV to handle the twistiness pretty good. Even at three digit speed, the new X3 is planted and stable. The high grip levels of the tyres and clinical braking leave no room for complaint.
BMW vehicles in the past carried stiffer suspension setup in line with driver's car DNA associated with them. However, new age BMWs have started going softer. Don't get me wrong, BMW is still a driver's machine while the X3 managed to find a sweet spot between ride and handling without compromising on the comfort of all passengers.
BMW India retails the new X3 from Rs 49.99 - 56.70 lakh, ex-showroom. At that price point, new X3 is pretty competitive with rivals. It is obvious that BMW has given an all-around makeover to the new X3. In the process, the X3 has lost some characters as it looks similar to the flagship X5. However, that cannot be considered as a setback as the new X3 now looks much more premium.
In addition, the new X3 now looks a size larger than the previous version, gets a more spacious cabin, and boasts premium fit and finish. The features stuffed in the X3 is also on par with rivals while the optimal ride and handling package of the X3 makes it a man among the boys. 2018 BMW X3 in nutshell is a driver's SUV.