The last time we drove BMW’s latest (and greatest) X3, it was only a few months back and we were really impressed with how much it has grown both in size and mannerisms. It drove and rode rather well on public roads, and even with a suspension tuned for the enthusiastic driver, going over patchy and rough surfaces did little to unsettle the X3’s ride quality. Our short stint on some unpaved roads also allowed us to sample the car’s soft-roading “rally” abilities.
But of course, all that testing was done over in the Land Down Under where wide open spaces are aplenty. It remained to be seen how adept the X3 would be back home on our narrower roads and unfortunately, at times, narrow-minded drivers.
Spec-wise, the car we have with us today is the xDrive30i. If you discount the M-Performance M40i variant, this is pretty much the top of the “normal” series run cars.
Equipped with a Twinpower Turboed 2-litre engine comfortably churning out 252 horses and 350Nm of torques. This powerplant when mated to ZF’s smooth 8-speed steptronic, allows us to hit 100 in slightly over 6 seconds, quicker than that old Lamborghini Countach you might have had on your wall when you were a kid. Progress still manages to boggle my mind sometimes.
Aesthetically, our car is the M Sport variant, this brings with it bigger and more aggressive looking bumpers, 20 inch wheels, high gloss black shadow-line trim around the windows, a lovely pair of high gloss black shadow-line roof rails, colour-coded body cladding and a number of M badges adorning the bodywork.
Having previously gone rather in depth on our last writeup for the X3 X Line trim we think both the X Line and M Sport are rather handsome cars and it all boils down to individual preference. The X Line in my view, has a slightly purer design language but the M Sport does have a more “urban warrior” persona.
For those wondering how this new X3 looks next to its smaller X1 brother, we managed to find one and parked up side by side. Although there are some similarities in the design language, we think there are enough key differences to set them apart. We’ll let you decide on this one.
And for those wondering how our X3 stacks up visually next to its predecessor, we managed to find one of those too with the new car definitely looking a lot more defined, modern and mature.
Inside are where most of the differences lie in comparison to the cars we drove in the Outback, with our xDrive30i almost fully loaded with plenty of gadgets and gizmos that have trickled down from the brilliant 5 Series.
Gesture control, touch display iDrive, Head-up display, 11 way adjustable ambient lighting, wireless charging, 360 surround and remote exterior view and a myriad of safety systems with heavily abbreviated names, they are all here.
One interesting tech-related feature available on the X3 is the BMW Connected App which allows you to select a destination point on your mobile before transferring it over to the car’s navigation system. Sure beats having to input a destination on the iDrive on the go.
The one thing missing which we had on our Australian cars, and something i wish was standard here, is the Active Cruise Control with Steering and Lane Control Assist. I know it can be spec-ed as an optional extra but it would have been nice to have it as standard in this day and age.
What i cannot fault though is the way BMW have designed and built the cabin.
Our M Sport car comes with BMW’s “Vernasca” leather featuring some nifty M-color infused pipping, an M leather steering wheel and aluminium trim. These M Sport additions along with BMW’s pot-on ergonomics and brilliant finishing for all the materials used throughout gives the interior a very modern and premium feel indeed. Interior space is also rather generous and i’m sure 5 adults will no doubt have a comfortable journey inside.
For a car in this segment of the market, one does not feature the interior without mentioning the load space and on the X3, there is quite a lot of it. 550 litres expandable to a really ginormous 1,600 litres with the seats folded down.
A thoughtful design feature is the integrated space below the boot floor that allows you to store the cargo privacy cover neatly.
As well designed and aesthetically pleasing it may be, on the road is where the latest X3 really shines. The steering might be a tad on the light side as most modern BMWs are but remains direct and sharp, switching over to Sport mode gives it additional weight but feedback still feels slightly too dampened.
There are of course multiple drive modes (ECO PRO, COMFORT, SPORT and SPORT+) selectable with the Driving Experience Control switches located next to the gear lever. For most of my road testing time, i left the car in Comfort mode with an occasional bump into Sport for the occasional spirited spurt of driving.
On our local roads, the X3 does feel slightly larger than when we last drove it in Australia, though navigating through small alleyways and tight carpark ramps posed little to no issues. Going down those same ramps did allow us to play with the hill descent feature which allows the driver to toggle just how quickly or slowly he wants to roll. On certain overtly long meandering carpark ramps, it’s a Godsend.
On road behaviour is excellent even with our M Sport tuned suspension. There is an underlying sense of stiffness dialed into the damping but ride quality remained excellent. Throw the car onto roads with a little more vigour and the X3 responds well, with its stiff chassis turning in as requested. It will run wide if pushed into bends with too much speed but we somehow suspect most buyers won’t be driving this car like a sports coupe. Still, it’s nice to know just how well BMW have developed the chassis.
So now that we’ve driven the new X3 in Australia and in Singapore, what do we think? On sale at S$235,000 currently, it’s a car i will highly recommend to anyone shopping within this segment or within this price range. If you don’t need an additional third row of seats, get this X3 (or even the X3 M40i) instead of the X5, the slightly smaller footprint will mean so much when navigating around traffic and narrow roads.
If you are looking to buy a base model 5 Series, get one of these instead, it offers more space, more pace and more fun at a slightly lower price point. And if you were looking at a Porsche Macan, swing over to Performance Motors to look at an X3, at a much lower price point for an equivalent engine variant, i’m very sure you will not be disappointed.
Overall, we think this new X3 is a very accomplished vehicle, an SUV/SAV that can really do a number of things at once and at the same time giving the driver an enjoyable time behind the wheel. The X3 no longer has to hide in the shadow of its bigger brothers and can now stand proud on its own. Well done BMW.