By: Justin Jacobs
WHILE Mercedes-Benz might be able to claim that it pioneered the premium German SUV segment with the introduction of the first-generation ML, it is, however, BMW that took the recipe to the masses when it introduced the mid-sized X3.
Since its introduction, the BMW X3 has grown in popularity, so much so that BMW South Africa converted its Rosslyn Plant from 3-Series production to X3 production for local and international markets.
Let’s be honest, BMW has been releasing a few questionably designed cars lately, but the X3 is, thankfully, not one of them. The refreshed model, or LCI (Life Cycle Impulse) as BMW calls it, benefits from subtle yet noticeable styling changes. Up front you will notice a redesigned bumper as well as a slightly bigger, one-piece kidney grille. There are also slimmer LED headlights as well as redesigned tail-light clusters, which clearly distinguish the updated X3 from other BMW SUV models.
Staying with the rear, you’ll also notice the newly designed rear section just above the tail lights which emphasises the horizontal lines. Lower down is newly designed underbody protection that aims to make the vehicle look more rugged. The normal X3 models get the same, somewhat squared tailpipes as found on the sportier M40i model. Wheels have also been enlarged for a sportier look.
At launch, BMW made available the X3 20d as well as the sportier M40i. The latter has been garnished with a few M-specific items to distinguish it from the rest of the line-up. These include a more aggressive front bumper and M double bars on the grille, aerodynamic M side mirrors, sportier rear bumper, exclusive 21-inch M light alloy wheels and larger tailpipes. All this has been further complemented by various M-badges and a new colour, called Brooklyn Grey, which gives the X3 M40i a sporty look and it pairs well with the gloss back design items as well.
Inside the BMW X3 it’s a quality affair as usual. Not much has changed from the previous model but if you look closer, you will notice a newly designed 12.3-inch touch display as standard, as well as a newly designed centre console with the current iDrive controller as well as a new gear lever. I particularly like the digital instrument cluster and the fact that paddle shifters are now standard across the range as well for a more engaging driving experience.
The interior is further enhanced by ambient lighting, quality materials, leather trim and silver inserts which contrast well with the gloss black elements found throughout the cabin. As always, space is impressive, with a luggage capacity of around 550 litres, which can be increased to 1600-litres when you lower the rear seats.
Under the bonnet of the X3 20d is the brand's tried and tested 2.0-litre turbodiesel, which develops 140kW and a healthy 400Nm of torque. The motor works well with the 8-speed automatic gearbox and xDrive all-wheel drive system. The experience was effortless and smooth and with a range of around 700km, which hardly changed over our 200km route, the 20d reaffirmed its standing as being the ideal, everyday option.
For the power hungry and those wanting aural excitement, the M40i is a must. It is powered by a 3.0-litre in-line six cylinder turbocharged motor that develops 285kW and 500Nm of torque, and it will reach 100/kmh from standstill in around 4.5 seconds, according to BMW. Show it some corners and an eager right foot and the X3 M40i does not disappoint.
Overall, the BMW X3 remains a winning formula and the refresh has just modernised the overall package ever so slightly. Both the X3 20d and the M40i impressed with decent ride quality, features and performance. I will still opt for the 30d model, however the 20d will most probably be the popular offering within the range.
BMW X3 Pricing
X3 sDrive18d: R895 658
X3 sDrive20i: R939 798
X3 xDrive20d: R997 176
X3 sDrive18d M Sport: R935 658
X3 sDrive20i M Sport: R979 798
X3 xDrive20d M Sport: R1 037 176
BMW xDrive30d M Sport: R1 210 764
BMW M40i: R1 415 042