BMW teams up with Italian styling gurus at Pininfarina for slick new coupe
BMW X3 review (2010 onwards)
Summary - Better looking, greener and more comfortable than the car it replaces, the BMW X3 may be a car whose time has come.
We like - Actually looks good, high-tech chassis, standard four-wheel drive, useful size, brilliant diesel engine, emissions and fuel consumption figures, proper premium feel
We don't like - You'll be paying extra for much of the tech, 'aggressive' start-stop, pushy image
Always the ugly duckling of the BMW X range - no mean feat - the outgoing BMW X3 proved critical maulings wrong and was a surprisingly strong seller. Sound basis for an all-new one then.
Predictably it's bigger, faster, more technically advanced and a whole lot more stylish than the current one. But it's also (a smidge) lighter, greener and, perhaps most shockingly, a nominal £115 cheaper for the big-selling xDrive20d model.
The extra length and width of the new X3 has certainly helped with the proportions, giving it a squatter, more purposeful stance. Smoother surface detailing and neater lights also tone down the previous car's aesthetic assault.
The current X3 is an all-diesel lineup and don't expect this to change for the new car. The biggest seller by far is the xDrive20d and on the new car power has climbed from 177hp to 184hp.
This chops four-tenths off the 0-62mph time - now 8.5 seconds - and gives the X3 the measure of most four-cylinder rivals by this admittedly arbitrary measurement. Of more significance is the smooth, punchy power delivery.
True, more powerful diesels will come and let the X3 put its traditional focus on driving dynamics to the test against the likes of the overtly sporty Infiniti EX30d. But, really, this 20d is all you'd ever need.
The biggest news is the option of an eight-speed automatic for crucial gearbox bragging rights. This is unprecedented at this level and a coup for BMW, offering butter-smooth auto shifts or, if you choose, near dual-clutch gearbox levels of crisp manual shifts.
Ride and handling
Even BMW now admits the outgoing X3's ride was an issue, it being one of a generation of run-flat equipped BMWs to suffer from spine-pounding lack of compliance. Thankfully the latest cars are a lot better.
All our launch cars were equipped with BMW's Variable Damper Control and Drive Dynamic Control, the latter offering the usual driver-adjustable settings to choose normal, Sport and Sport Plus modes - trickle down tech from the likes of the 7 Series and 5 Series.
Electric power steering is a first for an X model and lighter than the macho heaviness of the X5 and X6, perhaps reflecting the X3's more family friendly vibe. Sport or Sport Plus adds weight to the helm if you've got the variable rate option.
There's very clever stuff going on in the four-wheel drive system too, the upshot being that the X3 corners flat and composed but now rides and steers with fluidity only the Infiniti EX can rival.
The migration of technology from further up the BMW range continues inside the X3, the excellent (though optional) Head-Up Display system working brilliantly with the iDrive interface to deliver navigation prompts in your sightline.
Leather and climate control are among the standard features but, as ever, you'll need to fork out for various bundled packages of related equipment, such as the Business Advanced Media pack with nav, phone prep and other rep-friendly features.
Though different in character and positioning in purely practical terms the X3 isn't far off the X5 in terms of size, the rear legroom and comfort for the outside rear seats being especially generous even if the centre seat is less accommodating.
Generically BMW in style - and none the worse for it - the X3's interior has a real premium feel. The design is crisp and more stylish than the Audi Q5, better made than a Freelander and offers a more restrained vision of quality than the rather flamboyant Infiniti.
Economy and safety
BMW's mastery of combining class-leading performance while at the same time offering significant CO2 and mpg gains over rivals continues apace with the X3; the usual EfficientDynamics refinements like regenerative charging and 'smart' engine management are present and correct.
Electric power steering plays its part too but the arrival of start-stop is significant, especially on the automatic. It's faster to cut out than most too and the auto's system is much more intuitive than the one on the manual.
The numbers stack up as a cut in CO2 from 172g/km to just 149g/km, the auto actually marginally better at 147g/km. Fuel consumption improves from 43.5mpg to 50.4mpg, though even at a gentle pace we were some way off this.
The typically excellent array of standard safety measures and inherent poor-weather bonus of standard four-wheel drive can be further augmented with all sorts of extra tech too, including self-dipping lights. 'Birds-eye' parking cameras help avoid parking dings too.
The MSN Cars verdict
That people seemed to like the X3 despite its lumpy looks and lumpier ride proved the X3's worth in the BMW range. This new one's increased size and equipment levels now help smooth the progression up the X range.
As such it plays on the outgoing X3's strengths as a family workhorse while making it a whole lot more comfortable and better looking than before. 'Evolution not revolution' could describe it, perhaps, but the X3 has matured into a formidable player.
|Need to know|
|Engines, diesel||2.0 4-cyl turbocharged|
|Torque, lb ft||280|
|0-62 mph, secs||8.5|
|Top speed, mph||130|
|CO2, tax||149-147g/km, 21%|
|Ratings||BMW X3 xDrive20d|
|Ride & handling||****|
|MSN Cars verdict||****|
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