SINGAPORE (July 16): The new BMW X3 is a big car with a big name. To put it in perspective, this new sport utility vehicle is actually the same size as the original X5. Basically, BMW is upsizing all its popular SUVs. And with its new size, comes a new name — the BMW X3 xDrive 30i, although there are other variants available.
As always with a new model, you need to know what has changed from the previous one. Starting from the front, there is now a very large kidney grille, which is dramatic and imposing. That pretty much sums up the whole car.
My test-drive model was the M Sport version, which adds a layer of sportiness and brawn to the car, including chunky 20in tyres. There are a few other subtle changes to the new X3, including adaptive LED headlights and a new tailpipe configuration. But, of course, the major change is the size of the car, which has grown in height and length.
The impact of this upsizing is most obvious to see in the cabin, which is very roomy and spacious for what is technically a midsized SUV. The sunroof is huge too and stretches almost the whole length of the car, giving a light and breezy ambience inside.
All the materials are ultra high-end, with baby soft leathers and chrome finishing. The X3 has borrowed a lot of technology and luxury from the flagship 5 Series and 7 Series. There are sports seats too that make you feel snug, and three-zone air conditioning that makes sure everyone is suitably chilled
You also get three choices of driving modes — Sport, Eco Pro and Adaptive — depending on your mood and driving conditions. For a big car, the BMW X3’s consumption is 7.6 litres per 100km, so Eco Pro can help minimise your costs. For its performance, the two-litre engine punches well above its weight. You may have expected a bigger power plant for such a big SUV, but it is not needed.
The impact of this upsizing is most obvious to see in the cabin, which is very roomy and spacious for what is technically a mid-sized SUV
The all-wheel drive and responsive transmission make sure power comes quickly when you need it. To reinforce this, the new X3 gets from 0 to 100kph in just over six seconds, which puts it on a par with the much smaller and sportier VW Golf GTI. But it is actually quicker than another sporty SUV, the Porsche Macan.
As with the majority of BMWs, technology is abundant in the X3 and wireless charging, touchscreen technology and the Connected app are all useful additions. But then, there are the questionable add-ons such as the “light carpet”, which projects light onto the floor as you enter and exit the car. The same could be said for the gesture-control monitor that responds to specific hand movements. It seems a bit odd to twirl your fingers in a circular motion to increase the volume of the radio when the volume dial is just next to you and the volume buttons are on the steering wheel. But it is fun to play around with I guess, and it does impress your passengers.
The heads-up display is always useful, and I miss it when it is not featured in other cars. Checking your speed and having the current speed limit constantly in view is pretty handy if you do not want to get a ticket. And this is the sort of car you can easily get one in. Not only is it a powerful beast, it is so big and sturdy you can hardly tell when you have reached 100kph. That is a back-handed compliment as it really is a smooth and comfortable ride, however pedal-happy you are.
Other useful tech features include Parking Assistant Plus, which will help make parking and moving around tight spaces easier. The 3D surround view is incredibly realistic and makes parking a breeze. You can even see the 3D view on your phone wherever you are, if you have synched it to the BMW Connected app. So if you fall in love with the X3, you can admire it from afar sitting in a restaurant or at work.
There is a lot to like about this upsized X3. It would appeal to a family man or woman, along with a trendy urbanite with a quarter of a million dollars to spare. While some car parks may prove a challenge for those not used to the bulk of an SUV, the sensors and cameras come in very useful. The X3 is a winning balance of smooth performance, sportiness, bulk, technology and luxury all wrapped up in an SUV.
BMW X3 xDRIVE 30i M SPORT
$246,888 including COE
Engine: 1,998cc, four-cylinder, in-line, 16-valve, turbocharged
Power/torque: 249bhp or 252hp/350Nm
Fuel consumption: 7.6L/100km
0 to 100 kph: 6.3 seconds
Top speed: 240kph
Justin Harper is a freelance journalist with a passion for all things fast
This article appeared in Issue 839 (July 16) of The Edge Singapore.