DRIVEN: Third Generation BMW X3 – First Impression!

All New BMW X3 – Bigger, Bolder and yes, BetterBMW’s X-Line range has quite the success story.  Since the introduction of the first X model and the X5 in 1999, over 5.4 million X models have been sold worldwide. The X3, introduced in 2003, has sold more than 1.5 million units of its first and second-generation models, attributing to 28% of sales from the X-Line range.  We expect this winning formula to continue with the all-new BMW X3.  This car is quite important for South Africa as BMW’s Rosslyn plant in Pretoria will be building these new models to be sold in Mzansi and exported to Europe. BMW have pumped R3billion to the plant to be able to build the car.

The new X3 is a compact luxury crossover SUV and marketed as a ‘Sports Activity Vehicle’/ SAV – consistent with the rest of the X-Line range.   We cracked the invitation list for the launch of Third Generation BMW X3 in George, East London – a town that offered magnificent views and challenging terrains – making for some great test driving routes.

The third generation BMW X3 is an all-new car, seriously. From an exterior design perspective what has changed? Larger kidney grille, fog lamps have changed from round to hexagonal lights, front lights are sharper giving the car a more a more boulder appearance, the wheelbase has been enlarged by 50mm and the length has grown by 50mm. The roofline has been lowered at the rear to give the car a more dynamic appearance. It’s big, parking the third generation X3 next to the first generation X5, they’re the same size! Available in three trims, xLine, Luxury Line and M Sport. M Sport models are by far the best looking coming in 21 Inch wheels and unique body kit.
BMW has done a pretty good job with the interior. The layout is pretty good and could be mistaken for a 5 or 7 Series. It’s nothing short of premium. Upfront you find a beautiful 10.2 touch screen with gesture control (navigation system professional)  and BMW’s latest iDrive infotainment system and a beautiful chunky multi-functional leather steering wheel. Adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and semi-autonomous driving can be activated on the steering wheel. First time trying out semi-autonomous driving on a car and it works pretty well on this car.

Launch options include the xDrive20d (2.0d), xDrive30i (2.0 turbo petrol) xDrive30d (3.0d) and the range-topping M40i (3.0 turbo-petrol). We opted for the range-topping X3 M40i or our first drive, which turned out to be a proper performance car. The handling is sublime thanks to BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system (which is now standard on all new X3 models), potent 265kW 3.0litre twin-turbocharged engine and 500Nm of torque. This has to be the best sounding production BMW right now in my opinion – the bangs and pops from the M Performance exhaust are music to the ears. It handles corners beautifully on tar roads and tricky mountain passes. On straight roads, it never feels like it’s gonna run out of puff. The BMW X3 is right at home on off-road – with the xDrive system always there to get you out of sticky situations.


Next, we hopped into xDrive30d. If performance and fuel efficiency are at the top of your criteria before a purchase, this is the car to opt for. It makes do with a 195kW 3.0d but with more torque (620Nm) than the M40i (500Nm), you get good throttle response and a surge of power, from almost any gear, which is great for off-roading. Just like the M40i, the xDrive30d easily handled the challenging off-road routes.

If we had to choose between the two, based on handling and performance, the X3 M40i would take first prize. From a practical perspective, more people will buy the 2.0d and 3.0d variants for everyday use. This is an exceptional car from BMW and we expect it to perform well worldwide. Pricing starts from R687 506.00 for the xDrive30d up to the range-topping M40i at R1 000 676.00

More on the X

The new BMW X3 is more than just a pretty face:

Listen to that new X3:

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