2018 BMW X3 first drive review
The new BMW X3 is all-new and its represents a new generation for the small German SUV. And yet, the changes are so subtle that you would think this was a facelift. But in saying that, you also underline how nice the older BMW X3 already was. Unlike the BMW 6 Series GT - we drove this and the 6 GT both at the same media drive preview - the X3 does have direct and well-matched competition in the Audi Q5 and the Mercedes-Benz GLC. Let's begin with what's new. We do have a detailed article on what's under the X3's skin so we'll keep the descriptions short.
New bits and bobs
The design of the X3 is obviously new. Still very much a BMW SUV, the new kidney grille looks smart and the new LED details inside the headlamps look fresh. The kidney grille has the shutters that close for aerodynamics. This grille, changes to the roof spoiler and a nearly fully clad underbody give the new X3 a drag coefficient of just 0.29. The tail lights are also large, ornate LED units and unlike most other cars, BMW has now taken to shaping the light units which looks interesting from some angles.
While the BMW X3 hasn't changed significantly in any dimension, the car is about 6cm longer via the wheelbase extension
While the X3 hasn't changed significantly in any dimension, the car is about 6cm longer via the wheelbase extension and that's perhaps why the cabin feels a little more spacious now. You get the new 10.25 inch touchscreen atop the center console with iDrive 6.0 and the smart new meters the the brushed accents behind the steering wheel as well. The second row is well-appointed and reasonably spacious and the boot is a little bit larger than before. The X3 also now boasts 3-zone air-conditioning and of course, there are comfort, connectivity and audio options in a list that is very, very close to endless.
The BMW M540i model we drove, has the 2,998cc TwinPower Turbo in-line 6-cylinder petrol that makes 360PS and 500Nm
On the mechanical front, we drove the M40i petrol (the blue car on this page) and briefly, the X3 xDrive 30d (the grey one) on an off-road course. We don't expect either engine to come to India. The 30d did arrive the last time as an M Sport model but the 20d with its 190PS/400Nm 2,995cc TwinPower variable-geometry turbo is likely to be the primary X3 for us. It needs 8.0 seconds to 100kmph and top speed is 213kmph. The 30d gets the same engine but in 265PS/620Nm tune and that means 240kmph and 5.8 seconds to 100kmph. Just for reference, the M40i (the blue car on this page) has the 2,998cc TwinPower Turbo in-line 6-cylinder petrol that makes 360PS and 500Nm. It takes the 8-speed Steptronic only 4.8s to get to 100kmph.
The cabin of the BMW M540i feels a tad more spacious than before and you get the new 10.25 inch touchscreen atop the center console with iDrive 6.0 and the smart new meters the the brushed accents behind the steering wheel as well
The suspension has been updated with lighter aluminium components and BMW has also switched to aluminium callipers for the brakes and the result is a car that is as much as 55kg lighter depending on the selected trim. Suspension is a double-joint spring strut up front with a five-link rear axle. The X3 also has lighter anti-roll bars and BMW says they have made the xDrive system more rear-drive biased by default for a more agile driving experience.
The driving experience
On the road, the BMW X3 felt good. Our drive was short and the route we drove quickly revealed a responsive, composed SUV. As usual, the BMW X3's feel is supple and it feels like a tall car rather than an SUV in Sport mode. The M40i sounds marvellous in Sport and the 30d sounded quiet overall but is clearly a diesel. What I did enjoy was the ride quality which is notably supple and handled the two big bumps on our route rather nicely. In Sport mode, the car stiffened up slightly but road irregularities were dealt with well enough.
BMW already assembles the 20d's engine in India and in theory it should be able to launch the X3 xDrive 20d any time. We expect to see the car at the 2018 Delhi Auto Expo and believe that the launch will happen very close to the Expo if not at the expo. The bigger 30d might come later as a premium model or as a special M Sport edition, but this is not confirmed. There is also the small chance that given how India is slowly moving back to petrol engines in the luxury segment, BMW might actually toe the line by offering one of their smaller petrol engines on the X3 in India as well. Expect the price to sit in the `50-55 lakh range, on-road, when the new 2018 BMW X3 goes on sale in India next year.
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