xDrive 2.0d SE Automatic
generation of any new model
is expected to be better than the last;
not always the case but generally
it's true. The new second-gen BMW
X3 with the latest xDrive four-wheel
drive system is not just better, it is
vastly improved and is now the
premium compact 4x4 SUV it should
have been in the past...
THE FIRST GENERATION X3 was engineered and built by Magna Steyr in Austria but
the new versions for the UK are produced alongside the X5 and X6 in BMW's
Spartanburg factory in South Carolina, USA.
The new X3 is larger, better equipped, has a vastly improved quality for the
interior and is cleaner and more fuel efficient than the first generation versions
which arrived in 2004. When it first went on sale in November 2010, the higher-specified
new 2.0d SE actually cost £115 less than the outgoing one.
Now, since the VAT increase in January, the price has risen slightly to £31,135
for the current and only model in the range, the new 2.0d SE. The must-have
new eight-speed automatic transmission adds a further £1,525 to this figure
and the equally desirable Variable Damper Control (which adjusts the firmness
of the suspension) costs an extra £930. There are, of course, other extra-cost
option packs which can be added to meet a customer's exact needs.
more compact premium 4x4s arrived on the market, X3 sales in the UK dwindled
from a peak of 7,600 registrations in 2006 to around 2,000 in 2009. But BMW
UK says that 4,800 X3s will be available for UK customers this year (2011) and
there is reported to be a six-month waiting list as customers driven by the
continuing bad weather and deteriorating road surfaces return to the SUV fold.
In December 2010, actual UK retail sales for the new X3 were 216 versus the
predicted 91 units.
mainstay of the new X3 range is the initial launch version, the 2.0d SE and
this will take 80% of UK sales even after further models are introduced. Future
additions include an M-Sport spec version in April followed by 3.0 and 3.5-litre
diesel units later this year. There will be no two-wheel drive models and all
engine options will be diesel.
is reported to be
a six-month waiting list
as X3 customers
driven by the continuing
bad weather and
surfaces return to the
As expected, the new X3 embraces more of BMW's praiseworthy EfficientDynamics
technologies such as the Auto Start-Stop function, Brake Energy Regeneration,
lightweight construction and revised engine electronics that improve fuel consumption,
lower CO2 emissions and raise performance.
The 2.0d engine with the eight-speed auto 'box is actually cleaner for emissions
than the standard six-speed manual transmission. The official Combined Cycle
average fuel consumption is 50.4mpg for both transmission options, with CO2
emissions of 149g/km for the manual and 147g/km for the auto. This means a VED
road tax bill of £125 a year; Benefit-in-Kind company car tax is a competitive
21%. Consequently BMW claim their new X3 to be the cleanest and most frugal
4x4 in its class the most obvious premium brand competitors being
the Audi Q5, Volvo XC60 and the Land Rover Freelander.
Being cleaner and more fuel efficient hasn't dulled the X3's outright performance
either, with the highly-praised latest 2.0-litre, four-cylinder common-rail,
direct injection turbodiesel engine (as used in other recent BMW models such
as the 520d) pushing out 181bhp with 280lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm. Top speed
with either transmission is 130mph and the zero to 62mph acceleration time is
In real-life motoring conditions my test model, the X3 2.0d SE automatic, returned
39.9mpg on average with a best of 44.4mpg. Motorway cruising saw consumption
drop as low as 33.4mpg. These figures are not close to the official 50.4mpg
figure but in real-life the 1,790 kerb weight, vehicle size and the all-wheel
drive system all take their toll on a 2.0-litre engine.
test car's standard 17-inch alloy wheels were also fitted with winter tyres.
The £1,400 run-flat winter tyre pack which BMW are promoting adds £1,400 to
the vehicle's price but they work better at temperatures below seven degrees
centigrade. They give more grip in adverse conditions as well as reducing the
braking distance on wet roads and they are also likely to increase
the fuel consumption a little. For the record, the standard tyres are non run-flat.
eight-speed auto gearbox allows for fast, seamless gearshifts as one ratio slides
effortlessly to another. This auto also makes best use of the torque supplied
by what is a relatively low capacity four-cylinder engine for a 4x4 of this
stature. Perhaps at lower rpm the engine feels a shade less muscular than a
six-cylinder unit, but once 1,600rpm is reached the engine feels strong and
responsive right through the range.
all ways size,
comfort, quality, styling,
emissions, better fuel
economy, cheaper to
run and nicer to own
the latest BMW X3
is a huge improvement
over the original...
The xDrive all-wheel drive uses an electronically-controlled multi-plate clutch
system which supplies 60% of the torque to the rear wheels in normal use but
all of the drive can be distributed automatically to the front or rear wheels
The torque split is also used in conjunction with the dynamic stability control
and braking systems during cornering to distribute power and grip to the wheels
that need it most. There's also a hill descent control function to keep the
X3 on the straight and narrow at a chosen speed on a slippery decline.
While the X3 remains a 'soft' off-roader it isn't in the same
class off-road as the Land Rover Freelander it will cope with
muddy tracks or snow covered roads but bear in mind the limited ground clearance
is the biggest restriction to its ability as a recognised 4x4 SUV.
On road is where the X3 scores heavily. Despite its size it handles in an agile
manner with lots of grip during cornering and virtually no body roll. My test
car had the two steering extra-cost options to complement the standard electronic
system: Servotronic steering costs £175 and varies the amount of power steering
assistance, and the £370 variable ratio sports steering option makes for very
precise steering control. I found the steering and handling to be needle-sharp.
of the main criticisms of the previous X3 was the hard and uncompromising ride.
The suspension system has been redesigned and it now serves up a far more compliant
ride and is better suited to our poor UK road surfaces. The test car was also
fitted with BMW's £910 variable damper control system which provides Normal,
Sport and Sport+ modes. Normal is the best setting to keep away from the firmer
and unsettled ride characteristics.
in the form of stature is another of the major changes for the new X3. At 4,686mm
in length it has grown by 83mm; it is wider by 28mm; and the wheelbase has increased
by 15mm. This gives a more substantial kerbside look and, helpfully, more interior
space particularly for rear seat passengers. Externally, the X3's body styling
looks even more contoured and muscular. The boot space for the five-seater has
increased by 70 litres to 550 and with the 60:40
split rear seats folded this grows to 1,600 litres. The X3 also has a braked
towing weight of 2,000kg.
of the main
criticisms of the previous
X3 was the hard and
The suspension system
has been redesigned and
it now serves up a far
more compliant ride
thats better suited to our
poor UK roads...
Another niggle about the old X3 was the poor quality of the hard feel interior
plastics used for the fascia, dashboard and parts of the door trim. Those have
all gone: the finish is now almost luxurious and the layout first class.
Leather upholstery, two-zone air conditioning, electric windows and door mirrors,
ambient lighting, multi-function steering wheel, Start-Stop button, alarm, cruise
control, front and rear parking aid, automatic headlights, electronic handbrake,
on-board computer and the latest and much better iDrive systems controller with
'hot-keys' for the main functions, are all standard.
Of course there are the usual extensive options and option packs lists
£9,335 worth fitted to my test car which includes the cost of the auto gearbox.
But, in fairness, BMW use their press demonstration vehicles to showcase all
the options available.
Niggles? The long list of options can quickly bump up the price, electronic
handbrake, firm ride in adaptive suspension Sport/Sport+ modes and wind noise
from the roof rails.
That noted, in all ways size, comfort, quality, styling, technology,
performance, cleaner emissions, better fuel economy, cheaper to run and nicer
to own the second generation BMW X3 is a huge improvement over
the original one and thankfully not a great deal more expensive if we take the
increased VAT element out of the price. Certainly it is the leader of the 'posh'
compact SUV pack. David Miles
BMW X3 xDrive 2.0d SE Automatic | £32,660
Maximum speed: 130mph | 0-62mph: 8.5 seconds | Overall Test MPG:
Power: 181bhp | Torque: 280lb ft | CO2 147g/km