The BMW X3 used to be quite different from the rest of BMW’s range. Having made its debut in 2003, the first generation E83 X3 was a bit of an oddball, quite polarising in the way it looks because it played the role of a hip younger brother to the E53 X5. Mind you, back then BMW only had two SUVs (or SAV in BMW speak) in their entire line up so while the X5 was aimed at a more mature audience, the X3 was designed for the younger crowd in mind.
But that was 2003. Fast forward to 15 years later, BMW now have seven models in their X-series SAV range. Such is the demand for these high-riding vehicles that BMW decided to make one in various sizes, from the small X1 to the gargantuan X7. In those years the X3 has grown (hypothetically and physically) to now become, well, sensible. Now it straddles in between segments where it has to appeal to both young and old, and with rivals aplenty – no pressure then.
|Name||G01 BMW X3 xDrive30i|
|Engine||1,998cc; 4-cylinder TwinPower Turbo|
|Max Power||252 hp @ 5,200 – 6,500 rpm|
|Max Torque||350 Nm @ 1,450 – 4,800 rpm|
|Price (OTR without insurance)||RM313,800|
Now in its third generation, not only is the G01 X3 bigger than its predecessor, the F25 X3, it’s also longer and wider than the first-gen E53 X5. Although to be fair, the X3’s current opponents are about the same size too; just take a look at the Mercedes-Benz GLC and the Volvo XC60 and tell me they’re not big. Anyway, despite the growth spurt, weight has gone down by 55 kg, contributed by the CLAR platform (which also underpins the G11/G12 7-series and the G30 5-series) and a more liberal use of aluminium.
You sure that’s the X3?
It’s no surprise that the G01 X3 looks like a scaled-up version of the F48 X1 as both were designed by the same Calvin Luk. However, there are some design flourishes that are unique to the X3 such as the hexagonal-ish wheel arches, a different Hoffmeister kink treatment that harks back to the original E83 X3, and – whisper it – fake fender vents. Did the designers play it safe this time? Probably, but I believe they did it on purpose to attract a wider flock of potential buyers.
It cuts an imposing figure particularly from the front with the “bluff nose” and the oversized kidney grille while the Luxury Line trim brings a touch more class with chrome and brushed metal highlights along with a set of 19-inch multi spoke alloy wheels. No doubt that the G01 X3 is much easier on the eyes compared to its predecessors, although I must admit I do miss the quirkiness of the former.
Step right up
Inside, the X3 has stepped up its style game. Okay, it’s not the most stylish interior out there but it’s definitely fancier than before. No, I’m not talking about the crystal gearknob or the built-in fragrance diffuser here but the overall ambience does make you feel like you’re in something properly premium, something that the predecessor couldn’t quite deliver.
The base architecture is still typically BMW albeit modernised, and in a good way. So in the company of the traditional wood and leather, there’s a digital instrument cluster and a touch-sensitive 10.25-inch iDrive screen, and you can now cycle from a combination of six different colours for the ambient lighting.
The cabin isn’t just about style, it’s also versatile. Space is not an issue, occupants get plenty of room and three adults will fit just fine at the back. The door pockets are basically mini pantries for your snacks and the boot is huge too (and curiously matches the GLC’s boot capacity – 550 litres and 1,600 litres with the seats down).
The X3 does come with keyless entry and a contactless powered tailgate, and apart from having a flat loading bay, the under floor compartment has a dedicated slot for the tonneau cover. On top of that, the boot floor cover is held up by a gas strut. Even a Maybach doesn’t have that.
Punchy, not shocking
There isn’t any electrical propulsion assistance for the X3, at least for the time being. The full-electric iX3 won’t be out until 2020 and the plug-in hybrid X3 is slated for a global debut in 2019, so in the meantime the X3 runs purely on fossil fuel.
In Malaysia, the xDrive30i is your only option, so it’s a good thing that its 2.0 litre four-cylinder turbo engine is quite capable. The four-pot is a smooth operator and with 252 hp and 350 Nm, there’s more than enough poke for most. The 8-speed auto however, is not as slick as you’d expect, but it still responds instantly if you decide to play with the steering-mounted paddles.
In Comfort mode, the X3 does its best at being a genteel cruiser, providing you with a relaxed ride that copes well with poorly-surfaced roads. Naturally, body roll is present when pushed into corners, but the steering is one of the best among its rivals.
Switching into Sport changes the throttle and steering response but it doesn’t alter the suspension. It still rides comfortably but the turbo whistle under acceleration and the exhaust burp on the upshifts are slightly at odds with the car’s general refinement. It’s like seeing your boss go bowling in his three piece suit.
Will I buy it?
For what it’s worth the X3 ticks all the right boxes. It has the grace and pace you need to ferry four passengers and their luggage, which is what most buyers are looking for in a premium SUV in general, but when posed against its rivals, the X3 in this particular trim seems lacking, notably in the equipment list. It’s a bit of a hit and miss, this one. Personally I love the way it drives but I’d give it a pass unless it comes in an M Sport trim. It’s good to be sensible but you don’t have to be too serious all the time.