BMW X3 review 2013
The first BMW X3 arrived in 2004 and shared mechanical components with the four-wheel-drive version of the ‘E46’ 3-series. BMW subcontracted much of the development to Austrian company Magna Steyr, which also built the car. As the first mid-sized SUV with a premium badge, it had strong early sales in the UK, with a peak of 7600 cars registered in 2006. But volumes slumped as more modern rivals entered the market and just 2000 found buyers here in 2009.The X3 was the first mid-sized SUV to offer both the draw of a premium badge and unashamedly road-biased driving manners. Its sales success was in spite of a lack of critical acclaim.
But the second-generation X3 – known within BMW by its F25 design code – faces a far tougher test in a more crowded and competitive marketplace. Everything from the Land Rover Evoque to the Audi Q5 is vying for a share of an increasing market, while now the BMW X1 sits beneath the X3 in BMW’s SUV line-up.
The second-generation X3 represents a seismic leap in dynamics and quality over the original model
BMW has sharpened the X3’s appeal accordingly. Not only is it bigger than the car it replaces, but it’s also claimed to be quicker, greener and even slightly cheaper once extra standard spec is factored in.
The X3 range is limited, even if its appeal isn’t. The big seller will be the exceptionally (for an SUV) frugal 2.0-litre diesel, available in SE or M Sport trim. The 3.0-litre diesel, available in two states of tune and the same two trims, offers even better performance and only marginally worse economy and emissions than the 2.0-litre.
The BMW X3 benefits from the familiar magic weaved by BMW’s Efficient Dynamics programme, which has given almost all of the company’s model range class-leading green credentials. The X3 delivers similarly impressive numbers.
But the most impressive aspect is the effective invisibility of the economy-boosting eco tech, none of which gets in the way of the driving experience. The basic four-cylinder X3 manages the neat trick of being both greener and quicker than all of its rivals.
The speed the Hill Descent Control tries to maintain can be altered using the cruise control buttons
There are no mechanical surprises. Power for the xDrive20d comes from BMW’s latest 2.0-litre diesel, also found in the likes of the 520d, with 181bhp at 4000rpm and 280lb ft from 1750-2750rpm. BMW’s 0-62mph claim of 8.5sec is pretty much on the money; we averaged 8.4sec to 60mph on a damp surface.
Only at very low revs does the 2.0-litre engine give away its relative lack of capacity, with little pull available below 1500rpm. But from then onwards there’s strong, lag-free urge until the engine starts to tighten up at around 4250rpm. The ultra-precise shift action of the six-speed manual gearbox makes it easy to keep the engine in its broad comfort zone, too.
It’s at the pumps that the X3 really impresses, though. BMW claims a 1790kg kerb weight (our test car actually tipped the scales at 1825kg) but despite that – and both the tall aerodynamic profile and the friction losses of its four-wheel drive system – the 20d still scores 54.4mpg on the European combined economy test and its CO2 emissions are just 149g/km.
The six-cylinder xDrive30d, with 255bhp and 413lb ft of torque, drops the 0-62mph time by over two seconds, making it a seriously quick SUV. Again it’s a familiar engine, used across the BMW range.
The 30d's fuel economy is only marginally worse than the 20d's, in itself a great feat, given the performance gains. Its combined economy figure is 47.1mpg, with CO2 emissions of just 159g/km.
The range-topping 35d delivers yet more performance, shaving another 0.4sec off the 0-62mph time and offering a greater top speed of 149mph, for marginal economy and emissions losses. It's impressive stuff, but you have to question just how much performance you need from an SUV of this kind.