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First Drive: BMW X3 xDrive20d. Image by Richard Newton.

First Drive: BMW X3 xDrive20d
BMW's new X3 grows up and gets more environmentally responsible and more comfortable.

 



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| First Drive | Atlanta, USA | BMW X3 xDrive20d |

An increase in size, suspension that works and an efficient, refined powertrain broaden the BMW X3's appeal enormously.

In the Metal

Parked alongside an original BMW X5 at its launch, the new X3's increase in dimensions is obvious. As the X5 has grown, so too has the X3, better to fill the gap left by its relative. Below it sits the BMW X1, though the new X3 thankfully does not share its smaller sibling's slightly awkward lines. No, the X3 is pleasingly chunky: obviously BMW, but more junior X5 than grown up X1.

It's understated without being boring, the X3's style less edgy than before but solid and assured. It looks more expensive too. Inside it feels more expensive, with the build, materials and ergonomics impressing on first acquaintance. Space is increased, so the boot is now among the largest in the class, while passengers have more room front and back than before.

What you get for your Money

This bigger X3 is lighter than its predecessor, not just on the scales (it weighs 25kg less), but on your wallet. However, less money brings more equipment, as all X3s come with leather upholstery, dual-zone air conditioning and fuel and emissions saving start-stop technology. To that there's the option to add lots of additional equipment. BMW packages options up into handy bundles or leaves you to pick from a list of acronyms that rivals an explosion in an alphabet spaghetti factory.

As standard your 30,490 buys you an X3 xDrive 20d SE that features permanent four-wheel drive, a 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine with 181bhp and 280lb.ft of torque. It'll reach 62mph in 8.5 seconds and returns 50.4mpg on the official combined economy cycle.

Driving it

Anyone who has driven the previous X3 will appreciate the differences in the new model immediately. The suspension actually works, BMW giving the X3 springs and dampers that can both provide agility and decent ride quality. That's a revelation compared to the X3's bone-jarring predecessor.

BMW has seemingly achieved this without losing the car's appealing driving character, as the X3 steers sharply. The 2.0-litre turbodiesel revs smoothly and easily copes with the car's decreased bulk. The standard six-speed manual gearbox feels like all BMW's manuals, so it's oddly springy but pleasingly accurate. There's the option of an eight-speed automatic - which benefits from the same stop-start system as the manual - and it's likely to be a big seller. Forget the optional Dynamic Drive Control though; the X3 drives well enough without it. It's refined too, with little wind or road noise, while you only ever really notice the engine rumble when it stops and starts at traffic lights and junctions.

The X3 feels more mature and bigger, yet no less wieldy when compared to its predecessor. The improved refinement, substantially better ride comfort, interior quality and additional space in all give it gravitas to make it feel like a genuine X5 understudy - rather than underling.

Worth Noting

Cleverly, the stop-start system doesn't switch off the engine when it anticipates that a quick start from a junction is required. The X3 also features BMW's usual suite of EfficientDynamics fuel and emissions improving technology. Along with the stop-start there are low-resistance tyres, on-demand auxiliaries, electronic power steering and regenerative brakes. It all adds up to one of the cleanest premium 4x4s you can buy, with emissions of just 147g/km.

Summary

BMW's new X3 is a major diversion from the flawed original. Larger, more efficient, better performing, more comfortable and, crucially, better able to isolate occupants from bumps and ripples in the tarmac, the X3 is a capable, desirable alternative to BMW's own X5. That it has achieved all this with less weight, more equipment and for less money only adds to its appeal.













Kyle Fortune - 26 Oct 2010









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2011 BMW X3. Image by Richard Newton.2011 BMW X3. Image by Richard Newton.2011 BMW X3. Image by Richard Newton.2011 BMW X3. Image by Richard Newton.2011 BMW X3. Image by Richard Newton.

2011 BMW X3. Image by Richard Newton.2011 BMW X3. Image by Richard Newton.2011 BMW X3. Image by Richard Newton.2011 BMW X3. Image by Richard Newton.2011 BMW X3. Image by Richard Newton.



2011 BMW X3. Image by Richard Newton.
 

2011 BMW X3. Image by Richard Newton.
 

2011 BMW X3. Image by Richard Newton.
 

2011 BMW X3. Image by Richard Newton.
 

2011 BMW X3. Image by Richard Newton.
 

2011 BMW X3. Image by Richard Newton.
 

2011 BMW X3. Image by Richard Newton.
 






 

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