Looks like an SUV, drives like a BMW: The new BMW X3 2.8i is rather yummy

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Isn’t she pretty? That’s something you couldn’t say about the previous model. The proportions are more pleasing, indeed more BMW-like. In fact compare the sizes and you find the new X3 is almost the size of the original X5 so  she has also  put on a touch of weight. All  in all quite a good package. The other thing is the quality of the exterior has been given a sprinkle with pixie dust. It looks and feels expensive with the creases and curvy bumps smoothed to  become slightly  more  subtle.

The Xdrive 2.8i squats on fat 18” wheels which have given the X3 the angry aggressive look it always deserved. The outside really  looks the business. now its been given the new corporate suit. The mirrors  fold and the headlights have a Xenon option. If you decide to keep you hands in your pockets, the standard light also have daytime running as standard..image

Some of the pixie dust has been saved for the interior. The inside feels to be better quality than before, and only the happiest, best fed cows from the nicest barbwire free pastures have been asked to lay down their lives to cover the seats,  doors and other bits and bobs. They must have been corralled right next to the trees used to cover the dash and door  trims. It it’s plastic,  then I  certainly  can’t tell the difference. I  don’t normally suggest you buy the factory GPS  because almost without exception they hideously difficult to use. Indeed such has been the case with old BMW’s. But the X3 is really rather simple. Most folk look bewildered when they see knobs and buttons and leers, but the truth is most of them fall  into a few categories: Climate, vehicle customisation and audio. The I drive makes takes care some functions with large friendly knobs for  the climate. It’s all very straight forward and joy of joys paring your mobile doesn’t require an advanced degree in electronics  and 3 large whiskies to complete. What’s more it’s loud and clear in both directions. I for one am particularly lazy  when it  comes to making changes to a car so I love  simple functions. The easier the better and I  referred to the user guide a few times for minor adjustments only.

BMW has gone all high tech with the gear selector/parking brake. The whole shebang is electric and the shifter is really just  a joystick that moves forward and back to  select the gears and button for park and parking brake. It took a took a few jiffs to make it all work  for me. As did the keyless entry and go, but once sorted it was a joy to use. It’s worth noting the Idrive in the X3 is considerably easier to use than the sexy little Mini we drove a few weeks ago which was delightfully quirky, but a bit cumbersome. The instrumentation is very clear and the controls easy to hand and easy to use.

There was plenty of room even with 4 beefy lads aboard, and oodles of punch from the 3.0L straight six. On a side note, don’t be confused by the BMW numbering system because it has all changed, and there are more changes to come. the 2.8 doesn’t relate to the engine size and the “3” now relates to the numbers of doors and where it sits in the range. The odds (1,3,5,7) have 4/5 doors and the evens (2,4,6) have 2 doors with or without a roof, or at least this is how it looks so far. It’s a bit of a shame for those of us who looked at the badge and knew a 320c meant a 3 series coupe with a 2 litre engine. Why it has been changed is beyond me but no doubt it makes sense to someone back in Germany.

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After you’ve approached the X3, lifted the handle, got in and pressed the button, you’ll recognise the familiar BMW 6 cylinder growl. It’s always been quite a symphony and only outshone by their ripping V8’s. After only a few hundred metres I realised the X3 wasn’t driving like an SUV at all. In an unguarded moment you might almost think you were in the 3 series sedan. There was no hint of the awful waft-all-over-the-road nonsense you get with most SUV’s. No, it was civilised and refined with smooth acceleration and suspension which can only be described as sumptuous. The 190kw petrol engine gets to 100kph in 6.9 seconds, which as I never cease to remind you, is 10kw less than a Ferrari 308GTS and only 0.4 of a second slower to 100 which is amazing considering X3 is 500kgs heavier. If this car had been built in the early 80’s it would have been considered a supercar! In short, it felt drives and feels exactly like a BMW. The cornering, even when pressed, was predictable and firm without any nasty thumping over potholes like some cars we have been in lately. It went where it was pointed without complaint whether the road was wet or dry. The Xdrive apparently send power etc to just the right wheel. We don’t really need to know how it is done, just that it works. The steering is beautifully weighted which somehow simulates road feel despite its electric assistance that varies depending on conditions.

Speaking of the wet, we have auto wipers which seem to actually work so you’re not left unable to see through the windscreen between swipes in light rain.

Of course you have the option of shifting the gears yourself, but in normal or sports, the shifting from the transmission is best left to its own devices. There are a rather dizzying 8 gears for it to chose from and it seems to have a bit of a sixth sense about it. However it does gets its tits in a tangle if you stomp on the gas to get past something then change your mind,  with all sorts of revving and carry on.

There is almost no wind noise even at 110kph and the cabin is blissfully quiet which has been a BMW trademark for years. The audio system is top drawer with thumping base or clear-as-bells trebles. regardless of your music al leanings, you’ll be impressed by that provided as standard. Perhaps this is no more than  you would expect from an $80k car.

You might have heard all sorts of nonsense about the run-flat tyres being hard and noisy, but it just isn’t the case. They are no different to any other tyre, though I’d feel better with at least a space saver tyre in the boot, but I’m old fashioned like that. Indeed you might remember my recent tangle with the Lexus CT200h. One of my extremely expensive tyres developed a personality and went down on me in the middle of the night. Normally that wouldn’t have been of any great concern, but I had been at dinner in a seaside suburb so I was trying to find the jack point in the middle of the night with no light and an icy wind blasting from felt like Antarctica. The spare did me no good because I had to call the cavalry anyway.  At least with a run flat I’d have been able to make it home then to the Toyota dealer the next day. My only concern is the very limited range and speed. Once this has occurred your tyre is ruined and needs to be replaced. Quite a strain on your purse if it happens more than a few times per year. Thanks god most cars get roadside assist for the first few years off ownership.

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Conclusion

So what did I think of it? I’ve driven a few SUV’s this year. Some were 4WD and some, like the X3, were all-wheel-drive. We have to be practical because not many of us will go further off the beaten track than a slightly muddy driveway. People buy these things because they have a high driving position and plenty of space for people and assorted things which you want to cart around with you. She passes the “2 bags test” easily with 550 litres of space with the seats up. The fuel consumption is also excellent using 12.3 L/100Ks in the city, 7.1 on the open road giving us 9.1 combined. the X3 was easily the best drive.

It’s delightful in the city on on the open road and I rather fancy one for myself. It’s distinctively BMW and while you probably won’t turn heads, you’ll have an engaging experience with superb build quality. It gets lots of stuff standard including the Satnav, dual zone climate control and daytime running lights but also has an alphabet of options. These can really add to the price if you’re not careful, but since the basic car come pretty well packed with, you be catered for in the style to which you have become accustomed.

 

 

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It’s not perfect but none of us is.  Both headlights had quite a deal of condensation inside them and the climate control didn’t get that cold whether on auto or manual which was slightly disappointing. The key fob battery was also going flat so the keyless entry was a bit hit and miss, but I this would be easily fixed with a $2 battery.

It might sound as if I have rather gone on a bit but the X3 blitzes its rivals hands down.

I  love it.

Car engine trans co2 fuel cons power torque price
2.8* Xdrive X3 3.0L straight six 8Sp auto 201gms 9.0l/100k 190kw 310nm $81,600 in NSW**

*also come as a 2.0l 4 cyl and 3.0l 6 cyl turbo diesel @ $70,083 and $84,661

** prices will  vary from state to state as local rego and fees apply.

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4 thoughts on “Looks like an SUV, drives like a BMW: The new BMW X3 2.8i is rather yummy

    1. Sadly no. Though it’s very well packaged, and the standard infotainment package a stonking setup,most of extras are on the options list. The media package is 3 options, the the TV and professional Hifi and Satnav systems. Even the HUD is an option. You might be lucky enough to score one thats been fully pimped but none of that stuff is in the RRP. And of course Australian prices are almost exactly double the USA prices which is even more galling.

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