The third-generation big SUV with the big diesel
Should Mercedes-Benz, with its GLC, or Audi, with its Q5, be bothered by a rival also offering a six-cylinder 3.0-litre diesel alternative? Now in its third generation, the X3 has been a solid seller for BMW, and we’ve like it in 2.0-litre diesel form, so what does adding more engine size do for the package overall?
Actually, it’s not the power that is so much the high point here. Certainly, 261bhp seldom offends, but what is considerably more eye-catching is the torque figure: 457lb ft. While your eyes might glaze over when it comes time to start chucking figures around, the outcome is extremely relevant. Because it makes the X3 a seriously easygoing vehicle with no need to rev it hard to get a considerable result.
BMW X3 xDrive30d M Sport
Engine: 3.0-litre, six-cylinder, 2993cc, diesel
Torque: 457lb ft
Gearbox: 8-spd automatic
Top speed: 149mph
CO2, tax band: 153g/km, 32%
That suits the character of this big SUV well. It means you can whiffle along on a sniff of revs and yet still manage decent overtakes with no obvious signs of excitement. It gives the eight-speed auto box an easy time, but it’s more than up to the job of shifting quickly and efficiently. There’s certainly none of the hesitation that JLR seem to be building into its big SUV transmissions.
At idle there’s a bit of diesel grumble and you’re slightly aware of the diesel shakes through the steering wheel, but once underway you’ll not really notice, apart from enjoying all that low-down grunt. And going up a size in the engine bay doesn’t seem to have upset the balance of the X3 at all.
This was always a crisp and agile handler, and so it remains. With standard all-wheel drive, well weighted steering and BMW’s engineers behind it, the X3 handles remarkably well for such a tall, heavy vehicle. In this instance the lack of lean through corners and sharper turn in were aided by the sporty M Sport suspension, making this a great vehicle for country lanes.
But that M Sport moniker does mean that the ride has firmed up compared to a standard vehicle. We’d prefer the adaptive dampers at £460 rather than the M Sport set-up, as that allows a gentler ride while relinquishing little in the way of lateral control.
The cabin you’ll be relaxing in is built to very high standards, and has as the dashboard highlight the 10.2in iDrive infotainment screen, surely the best around. That’s standard on the M Sport vehicles, and is brilliantly easy to use and totally intuitive.
There’s ample room for four, although five is certainly feasible, even if something like a Discovery Sport would offer them a touch more space. It’s a shame you can’t have a sliding bench in the rear, but you can’t even order that as an option. Behind the rear seats there is a roomy boot that is eminently usable.
So there’s a great deal to like here. We wouldn’t go for the M Sport because of the cost and the harsher ride quality. You could get the SE level vehicle for £44,380 and really you wouldn’t be missing anything over the £47,180 model you see here.
If you had the budget this makes a terrific mile eater, covering the ground in a stress-free way, coping with all types of road and indeed many types of terrain without causing the driver to even gently perspire. If you didn’t have the budget the 2.0-litre diesel version is still a belter, but costs less to buy and run while still being just as agile.