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Wooing Gen-Next with the all new X3

S Muralidhar | Updated on January 09, 2018

German luxury standard: The new X3

German luxury standard: The new X3’s cabin oozes a sense of elevated premiumness

BMW ups the ante for competition with a significant improvement in quality and performance of its mid-size SUV

BMW has probably never felt the need to raise the appeal of its cars and SUVs like it has over the past couple of years. But, the brand has really hit the refresh button hard and the results of its work of the last few years are starting to show in new models, some seriously production-ready concepts and in new generation models that are quite a leap from their predecessors. And the best bit is that the Indian arm is likely to get a whole bunch of these next year that will deepen its portfolio and offer more choice to customers. The new 6GT is one of them and we reviewed that elegant all-new model here some time ago. Here are the first driving impressions after testing the new 2018 X3, another significant model for the Indian market.

Design

It is tough to think of the new 2018 X3 as being a completely new model. There are resemblances, and dimensionally too the upcoming model doesn’t seem much bigger than its predecessor; an impression that is reinforced when it is viewed from the side. What is clear even at first glance is the fact that the new third generation model’s design makes it look squatter and the raised rear half seems to have been lowered. BMW engineers point out that the new X3 is an entirely new generation model with a new frame that sees higher use of recycled aluminium parts making it lighter despite the five cm increase in wheelbase. The proportions of the new X3 still put it in the mid-size sports utility vehicle segment. The same crossover ‘X’ character has been carried over, and the only change is a slightly lowered body and a chunkier bonnet. Subtle changes to the body style like the square-edged wheel arches, the tapering nose and the quiet exit of the hoffmeister-kink come into view when I walk closer to the 2018 X3.

In the front, the most visible change compared to the previous generation X3 is the new, larger pair of kidney grilles, now sporting active air flaps for improved aerodynamics. Not too surprising then that the drag co-efficient is lower at 0.29. The headlamps are also larger units now sporting signature LEDs. A slightly larger airdam and a thin arrray of LEDs for the fog lamps allow the new X3 to offer a fresher face with sabre-tooth style accents on either side of the front fender. Deeper creases run across the body panels and the bonnet giving it a more sculpted look. The X3 M40i I was driving during the BMW-organised test drive event sported more chrome accents and brushed aluminium door mirrors, which won’t be part of standard equipment for lower trim variants. It also had an acoustic glass windscreen, though windows in the same material are optional additions.

The rear design of the new X3 also features incremental changes like the new 3D tail-lamp with its new LED signature tubes. BMW officials say that the chiseled 3D construction is an optional addition, but since all the X3s on offer at the event sported these, I can’t comment on how the other version looks. An automatic tailgate is now standard and the M40i gets a dual sports exhaust.

Cabin

One of the first impressions of the new X3’s cabin is the elevated sense of premiumness. There are parts that feel new and those that seem like they have been borrowed from the previous generation but just better finished and made with higher quality materials — like the switchgear and the door and dashboard panels. A new 10.2-inch touchscreen with gesture controls (first seen in the current generation 7-Series) tops the centre stack. The M40i variant had a lot of optional trim elements like three-zone climate control, a 12-inch digital instrument cluster, head-up display and LED light carpet ambient lighting. There are a lot more storage options in the new X3, and the boot offers a larger 550-litre luggage space with all seats in use; expandable to 1,600 litres with the rear seats folded. The large leather sports seats in the M40i variant were another highlight with adjustable side bolsters and perfect thigh and lumbar support; only complaint being the high seating position. The rear seats are also comfy and there is a clear increase in legroom thanks to the longer wheelbase. There are a lot of customisable options for the cabin and other optional additions like the induction charging port for cellphones and the impressive 16-speaker Harman Kardon music system (that my test mule came fitted with). BMW has got a number of trim elements cloned from the 7-Series and allowed them to trickle down to the new iterations of its smaller vehicles like the 5-Series, 6GT and now the X3. That strategy has elevated the perceived quality of the X3’s cabin.

Performance

The 2018 X3 is being offered with three petrol and two diesel engine options with outputs ranging from 184 hp to 360 hp and all the engines are being offered with the eight-speed steptronic transmission as standard. Unfortunately both the variants that I tested at the BMW-sponsored International media drive in Lisbon are unlikely to come to our shores. The most time I spent behind the wheel was in the M40i, which now feels like a delightful mid-size SUV that is ready to take on the likes of the Porsche Macan and the Mercedes-AMG GLC43. Sporting BMW’s classic three-litre, in-line six-cylinder petrol engine, this unit features the brand’s M Performance TwinPower Turbo tech enabling it to generate 360 horses of power and 500 Nm of peak torque. Delivering a multi-sensory experience, including a nice growl from the dual sports exhaust, the X3 M40i is capable of a segment-leading 0-100 kmph acceleration of 4.6 seconds. Peak torque is available all the way from 1,500 rpm. On the highway and in comfort mode, the M40i delivers effortless acceleration, the suspension is surprisingly pliant and despite the 20-inch rims and low profile tyres, the ride is very comfortable. The route mapped for me included a wooded section with twisties along a hill-side and no semblance of tarmac. This was perfect for trying out the stiffer sprung setting in Sports+ mode. The ride got a bit more bumpy and the steering tightened and weighed up substantially for more precise tackling of corners. The gearbox also becomes much more agile even in full auto mode.

Bottomline

The other X3 variant that I briefly got to test drive was the X3 xDrive30d sporting the 2,993 cc, in-line six-cylinder diesel engine, also paired with the eight-speed steptronic auto gearbox. This engine delivers 265 hp of peak power and 620 Nm of torque. The 30d mill is bereft of the usual diesel engine clatter, and with the acoustic glass, the cabin is really quiet. There is more than adequate power and torque on tap. Both the M40i and the 30d are being offered with BMW’s xDrive four-wheel drive tech, with the M40i getting a rear axle biased split for sportier driving. Though the off-roading course that had been set out for me was rather tame, the X3’s proven four-wheel drive abilities and the new model’s high (204 mm) ground clearance, and tall approach and departure angles does highlight its potential. The new X3 will be offered with a full complement of safety features, including adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assistance.

The 2018 BMW X3 is a much more rounded and loaded mid-size SUV that should enable the brand to take on competitors higher up in the price and perception ladder.

We will most likely get the 2018 X3 20d and its two-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine, with the possibility of a petrol joining the line-up later.

Published on November 09, 2017

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