$62,200 – $74,900
Good: Agile handling; Improved ride; High quality cabin with generous rear seat space; Super frugal x20d variant offers an excellent combination of performance and economy.
Not so Good: Styling can’t match the muscular X5; Slightly more wind noise than ideal at highway speeds.
Design and Engineering
Good : This 2nd generation model arrived in Australia in March 2011. More muscular than the 1st gen X3 (2004 to 2010), it features a lower stance and a less polarising overall design. The side body creasing is a styling highlight and far more dramatic in the metal than the picture shows.
Impressively, the X3 is lighter and roomier in spite of being similar in size to the first generation X5. It’s a notable 8cm wider and 11cm higher than the smaller X1. An aluminium bonnet and doors contribute to the weight reduction.
Not so good: The X3 still doesn’t look as muscular as the bigger brother X5, probably because it lacks the dramatic pumped out guards and even wider stance.
The X20d grade comes standard with 17 inch alloys that struggle to fill out the wheel arches however this can be overcome by opting for the larger 19 inch alloys.
Interior and Styling
Good : Evolution has been kind to this generation X3’s interior. The fit and finish is superb, and whilst the design focuses on being uncluttered, it still feels luxurious with lots of soft touch plastics and high grade materials up front. The driver’s instruments are clear and logical. The improved iDrive system and heads up driver’s display work well.
The driving position is excellent; the upright seating gives the driver good visibility and the pews offer good levels of adjustment. The electric park brake is handy and eliminates the need for a traditional hand brake; there are big, practical door pockets and the central positioned large colour screen is class leading.
With such good levels of head and legroom in the rear seats, 6 foot adults should have no problem getting comfortable. Rear cargo space is a very generous 550 litres and grows to 1600 litres with the 40/20/40 split rear seats folded down. The tailgate has a low opening so access is also good for shorter people.
Not so good : Some people may find the dash design overly plain (we’d rather say minimalist).
Good : Two grades are on offer. The x20d features a 2.0-litre four cylinder turbo diesel which generates a healthy 135kW of power and 380Nm of torque while the x28i with a 3.0-litre inline six cylinder petrol produces 190kW and 310Nm. Both grades feature constant all wheel drive and an eight speed automatic transmission.
The x20d variant offers a brilliant compromise between overtaking oomph, low speed pulling power and fuel economy. The engine is impressively refined, smooth and produces minimal turbo lag. It’s also far quieter than the diesel norm. With stop-start the x20d also makes no sound as you come to a complete halt at traffic lights.
The eight speed transmission is brilliant. It holds gears for as long as you want and is a real step forward over the previous six speed automatic transmission used by BMW which was by no means shabby.
Official combined fuel economy for the x20d is a very low 5.6 litres per 100km, very impressive when you take into consideration the sheer size of the vehicle and the effortless performance it delivers.
Not so good: At very low revs (i.e. below 1,500rpm) the 2.0-litre engine in the x20d can never match the effortless power of a larger displacement BMW turbo diesel engine. Wind noise at highway speeds is a touch higher than ideal.
Ride and Handling
Good : The X3’s handling is very impressive. It sits flat through corners displaying minimal body roll. The optional 19 inch alloys with wide, low profile tyres offer high levels of grip.
The constant all wheel drive system sends 60 per cent of torque to the rear wheels but if necessary, 100 per cent can be sent to the front or rear. Whilst not intended as an off roader, the X3 does offer Hill Descent Control and 21cm of ground clearance.
The ride is a noticeable improvement over the previous model. The X3 is now more compliant, a smooth highway traveller, comfortable over most surfaces and rides quietly.
Not so good : The ride is still not the most comfortable in its class. Over rougher surfaces it can feel a touch unsettled and the stiff walled run flat tyres don’t help.
The steering feels slightly artificial at low speeds this is due to the electrically assisted power steering.
Buying and Owning
Good : The X3 ticks the safety box with six airbags; impressive electronic stability control and strong anti lock brakes as standard fare. All grades are fitted with brake regeneration technology and the x20d gains a start-stop system to maximise fuel economy. Inside, all X3s come standard with keyless start, a 6.5 inch colour screen, reversing camera, USB audio and Bluetooth connectivity.
The M Sport package is a very tempting option; adding sports suspension, M sports bodykit, sports seats, M leather steering wheel and 18 inch M light-alloy wheels.
Not so good : The standard run flat tyres still aren’t the best combination for outback travellers, however for urban buyers they make sense as boot space is the big winner.
The x28i is far thirstier than the impressive x20d variant but against its petrol powered competitors it can hold its head high