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Lucire 2012
Balanced There’s something very satisfying with the F25 X3: it has the right amount of solidity and flair in its design

Tastefully packed

If you must have an SUV, few come better balanced than the BMW X3 Xdrive20d, says Jack Yan
photographed by the author on a Voigtländer Bessamatic Lux

 

 

There’s something about the original BMW X3 I didn’t like. It had nothing to do with its driving dynamics—BMW’s claim to fame when it comes to its X range of SUVs—but how it looked. The X5, in either of its incarnations, looks purposeful and chunky. The X1 has a low-slung look, clear about its intent as a sporty urban runabout. But the X3 seemed to have a hard time deciding which one it was. It was the middle child, the Malcolm of the BMW models.

However, that has been solved with the F25 series, the second incarnation of the X3. For a start, it’s moved up a size, giving the X1 more breathing space at the bottom of the range. Secondly, the X3 has taken more of the personality of its big brother: it’s decided to be chunky and practical.

However, the lines still show a bit of flair: the feature waistline that leads from the front door through to rear wings has a swoopiness that contrasts pleasantly with the angular headlights. But it’s not fussy in the way a Mercedes-Benz E-Klasse and CLS are fussy, even overornamented. It’s balanced, never going all the way into confusing the eye. The F25 has the perfect mixture between practicality, timelessness (which BMWs of yore had), and the flourishes expected of early-2010s design.

It’s also the first X model we’ve tested with BMW’s Efficient Dynamics as standard, which means, among the driving experience, stop–start. As a feature, it impressed many of our passengers, especially when you give the environmental explanation for it. Why generate emissions at traffic lights when you’re standing still? Only one expressed her reservations about what it might do to the starter motor, but considering the technology has been around for three decades and is now mainstream, we have faith in its reliability. (Those nervous about it can always switch it off.)

In our test, we returned 34·6 mpg Imperial (8·16 l/100 km) in our Xdrive20d, not bad considering most of it was spent in urban settings, unlike our other tests where at least part of it is on the motorway. We’ve little doubt that had we taken the X3 on lengthier journeys, we could have seen 37 mpg (7·6 l/100 km).

Also standard on our test car, in a very pleasant champagne colour, was the latest version of BMW’s sat-nav, which not only provides the map, but draws three-dimensional buildings of a good deal of Wellington’s city centre. The practicality of this is dubious: surely if I peered my head out the window I can see something similar, and isn’t the point of a map to show you the streets, rather than have them obscured by buildings? However, as another gee-whiz feature, like the stop–start, it impressed others.

There is also Hill Descent Control, the feature developed at Rover that BMW inherited when it bought the former “English patient” in the 1990s—might we call it the English patent?—though with our urban road test, we didn’t get a chance to use it.

Fortunately, the X3 is not just about toys. As expected from BMW, it handles wonderfully. Of course, there’s the higher centre of gravity to contend with, but in terms of grip and steering responsiveness, it does remarkably well—with shades of the previous X5, which was always considered a driver’s SUV. Size-wise, it’s the best bet from our point of view: where the X1 might be thought of as a taller estate car, the X3 is a reasonable width (1,881 mm, just under an inch wider than the 5-series, and, importantly, a centimetre narrower than the Volvo XC60) and the seating position is perfect for those who favour SUVs: the seats are roughly at buttock height, so there’s no climbing involved—which shorter and some average-height drivers have to do for the X5 and X6.

The seats themselves are supportive, while the interior ambiance is every bit as good as the larger models: the same machined aluminium look, the neat gear lever, and materials that don’t have you thinking that you are driving a Claytons model, a reaction which a lesser, basic X1 will prompt—or, for that matter, the Renault Koleos and a number of other SUVs, stripping things out in the name of utility and easy surfaces to wipe.

To us, this is the complete SUV. Get a larger model of any marque and you’d be hard pressed to convince people that it’s good for the environment, and you might run up against the anti-SUV camp. Get a smaller one and you wonder why you bothered: wouldn’t it have been more sensible to get a station wagon instead? If you must have an SUV, the X3 is, in the context of the early 2010s and diesel at nearly NZ$1·50 per litre, Goldilock’s Baby Bear’s bed: it’s just right. •

 


Jack Yan is publisher of Lucire.

 

The lines still show a bit of flair: the feature waistline that leads from the front door through to rear wings has a swoopiness that contrasts pleasantly with the angular headlights. But it’s not fussy in the way a Mercedes-Benz E-Klasse and CLS are fussy, even overornamented

 

 




 

 

 

Autocade logo
Get quick facts on the BMW X3 (F25) and other models at Autocade.

 

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