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BMW X3


Jeep Grand Cherokee

Summary

BMW X3

If SUVs were a horror movie, they'd have to be the 1958 cult-classic The Blob: a drive-in special that told the story of a shapeless mass that grows and grows, eventually consuming everything in its path. A bit like James Packer, then.

But also a bit like BMW's range of X-stamped SUVs. Take the X3, for example, which has slowly but relentlessly grown over the past 15 years, so much so that this all-new, third-generation model is now bigger in every key dimension than the original BMW X5.

Which means the X5 has also grown, which means the X6 has grown, which means the... well, you get the idea. If current trends continue, we won't be so much driving the next generation of X cars as we will be moving into them.

But unlike that cinematic tale, the X3's new and bigger dimensions have a happy ending, especially for riders lounging about in the really very spacious backseat. And there is more good stuff going on for this major update, too.

It's got a new and more muscular design penned by crayon-wielding Aussie ace Calvin Luk, and it's loaded with clever technology (including BMW's latest autonomous technology) pilfered from the new 5 series.

But while the X3 has been both growing and growing better, so has the competition, and the premium mid-size SUV space is one the most hard-fought segments there is.

So how does the new X3 measure up.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.6L/100km
Seating5 seats

Jeep Grand Cherokee

What a time to be alive people. There have never been more SUVs to take your pick from. But while many are excellent, there sure are a lot out there that are a bit... samey, and conservative, a little domesticated.

And even though they might have several different flavours in their model line-up they don't really differ much from each other. Well, Jeep's Grand Cherokee is a bit different.

First it's made in the United States of America, in Detroit, and that's becoming a rarity these days. Next, the line-up is like a kooky gang of super heroes all with different powers.

There's the monster high-performance V8 one which can out accelerate and out handle many sports cars; the tough off-road one that can lift itself higher than its rivals with its air suspension; there's posh one, the popular one nearly everybody buys and the rear wheel drive one hardly anybody does.

We recently went to the Australian launch of the updated Jeep Grand Cherokee where we drove the SRT hi-po beast and the latest member of the super hero family – the tough Trailhawk off-roader.

Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency7.5L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

BMW X37.9/10

The X3 is a hugely important model for BMW, and one that was starting to be left behind by rival models from Mercedes-Benz and Audi. But this third-gen model levels the playing field once more, and launches the X3 straight back into the fray with the segment's best.

For our money, the xDrive30d is the pick of the bunch, serving up effortless performance in a comfortable, quiet and practical package.

Would you choose the new BMW X3 over a Mercedes-Benz GLC or Audi Q5? Tell us in the comments section below.


Jeep Grand Cherokee7.9/10

Not many SUV brands out there have ranges offering a variety of vehicles as wide as the Grand Cherokee line-up. These are comfortable, good looking, and in nearly all cases, capable off-roaders – particularly the Trailhawk.

The sweet spot of the range is the Limited. It's excellent value, and there's no wonder it's so popular. The SRT is also hard to go past if you're after more of a sledgehammer – at almost $10,000 under 100K it's bang-for-your-buck that can't be beaten.

Is the Jeep Grand Cherokee the best large SUV under $100k? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Design

BMW X38/10

The X3's exterior was designed by Australian Calvin Luk, who was tasked with making it "sportier, tougher and bolder" than the outgoing model. And while, to our untrained eyes, the changes don't seem quite as extreme as Calvin insists they are, there's no doubting the X3 cuts a handsome figure on the road.

Viewed front-on, that traditional kidney grille has been raised to give it a more proud look out front, and it flows into a bonnet lined with new and defined creases carved front-to-back toward the windscreen. Muscular arches, roof rails and a razor-sharp body crease add attitude to the side profile, while at the back, a more tapered rear end is framed by a hint of rubber from the rear tyres.

Inside, the materials and layout are taken straight from the BMW playbook, but there's been a technology overhaul, albeit one that's more obvious on the more expensive models, with wireless phone charging, an updated touch screen and, on the 30i and 30d, a new digital driver's binnacle.

So evolution over revolution inside, but the cabin exudes a predictably premium feel no matter the trim.


Jeep Grand Cherokee8/10

New one look like the old one? Yup, the styling changes are almost unnoticeable, but the trademark seven-slot grille is slimmer, the front bumper has a new design and the fog lights use LEDs.

The Grand Cherokee's look is distinctive with its big toothy grille, high waistline and pumped up guards. It's an American muscle SUV – especially the SRT with its nostrilled bonnet, enormous air intakes, blacked-out face and red Brembo brake calipers.

The new Trailhawk rivals the SRT for attention-seeking-but-still-functional bling with its red tow hooks and badging. Look closely and you'll see small profiles of a WW2 Willys MB Jeep on the wheels, which is a cool touch.

The Grand Cherokee's cabin is comfortable but more functional than stylish, higher grades feel plush with their leather seats and wood trim finishes.

The Grand Cherokee's dimensions reveal all variants apart from the SRT to be 4828mm long and 1943mm wide. The SRT is longer at 4846mm and wider at 1954mm across the hips.

The heights vary depending on the variant with the Laredo and Limited standing 1802mm tall, while the Trailhawk and Overland are 1792mm. The SRT is hunkered down lower at 1749mm.

The Trailhawk and Overland have an approach angle of 36 degrees, a departure angle of 27 degrees and a breakover angle of 22 degrees. Those trump the angles for the Laredo and Limited which are 26 degrees for approach, 24 for departure and 19 for the breakover.

The SRT will still be competent off-road but its approach angle of 18 degrees, a departure angle of 22, and a breakover angle of 18 means it's more suited to less challenging dirt and gravel roads.

Practicality

BMW X39/10

At 4708mm long, 1891mm wide and 1676mm high, this third-generation X3 is bigger than the original X5 (which was 4666mm long, and 1872mm wide), and all those those extra millimetres start making sense once you climb into the cabin.

Up front, every X3 feels spacious, with lots of headroom and, with electric front seats standard on every trim level, plenty of options to get comfortable. There are two cupholders that seperate the front seats (joining the two in the pull-down divider in the backseat), and there's room for a 1L bottle in each of the four doors. Up-front riders also share two USB ports, as well as a wireless charging pad for compatible phones.

Climb into the backseat and you'll find plenty more space on offer. There was more than enough clear-air between my knees and the seat in front when sitting behind my own (5ft10inch) driving position, and impressive headroom, even with the optional sunroof fitted.

Elsewhere in the back, three-zone climate is standard across the X3 range, so backseat riders get both vents and temperature controls, and there's a 12-volt power source, too - no USBs, though. There's also two ISOFIX attachment points in the back, and a third top-tether point in the middle seat, so you can squeeze three child seats across the back.

The boot serves up 550 litres with the 40:20:40 split-fold rear seat in place, but should you drop them via the boot-mounted levers, that number grows to 1600 litres. There are some cool touches in the boot, too, like a hidden storage area under a partition in the boot, the lid for which is held open by a gas strut that makes loading easier. That extra space is also big enough to store the boot cover.


Jeep Grand Cherokee8/10

All Grand Cherokees are five seaters. Legroom in the back is just enough… for me. I'm 191cm tall and the only reason I can sit behind my driving position is because of the concave design of the front seatbacks – and that gives me a gap of about 20mm. Headroom is great back there.

Up front there's stacks of head and shoulder room, although the driver's footwell feels a little cramped with the transmission tunnel above the bellhousing seeming to eat into the space.

There's a decent boot with a capacity of 782 litres and under the floor is a full-sized spare with storage space around it - you'll also find a rechargeable torch in the cargo area which 'clicks' into the boot wall.

Storage throughout the rest of the cabin is good with two cupholders in the fold down centre armrest in the back and another two up front. There's a deep centre console bin and bottle holders in all doors.

Price and features

BMW X38/10

The BMW X3 range arrives in three flavours, the diesel-powered xDrive20d ($68,900), the petrol-pumping BMW xDrive30i ($75,900), and the biggest - and best - diesel option, the xDrive30d ($83,900). They'll be joined by the smallest petrol model, the xDrive20i, and the go-fast and enticing-sounding M40i version, both of which will touch down next year.

For now, though, the cheapest way into the X3 range wears the xDrive20d badging, and your investment will earn you 19-inch alloys, roof rails and LED headlights outside, while in the cabin you'll find part-leather-trimmed seats, a leather-lined steering wheel, a colour head-up display, navigation and a wireless charge pad for compatible phones. You'll also get three-zone climate control and a 6.5-inch touchscreen that pairs with a six-speaker stereo.

Step up to either the 30i or 30d (both are identically equipped), and you'll add 20-inch alloys, full leather seats, a bigger 10.25-inch touchscreen running the latest iDrive system, and another 12-inch digital display that replaces the traditional gauges in the driver's binnacle.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto remain a cost option, with the clever wireless version of the system yours for $623, and you might want to spring for the 16-speaker harman/kardon stereo (another $2000), too. Both of which should really be standard on the more expensive models.


Jeep Grand Cherokee8/10

The Grand Cherokee line-up kicks off with the only two-wheel drive in the range – the $47,500 Laredo and above that everything else is four-wheel drive (4WD).

There's the $52,500 petrol Laredo 4x4 (the diesel version is $5500 more); then the popular Limited which lists at $62,500 ($5500 more for the diesel); the diesel-only Trailhawk at $74,000 is a new off-road hero variant; then there's the plusher $80,000 Overland with the same engine, and finally the high performance, petrol-only SRT for $91,000.

All V6 petrol engine variants have increased by $500 over the outgoing model, while the diesels stay the same – apart from the Overland which has risen by $1000. The SRT has also gone up by $1000.

Jeep Australia has confirmed that the range will be joined by the Trackhawk super SUV in late 2017 which will tower over the rest of the line-up in price and performance.

At the most affordable end of the range the Laredo grade comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, an 8.4-inch touchscreen (5.0-inch in the 4x2), 7.0-inch instrument cluster display, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, power adjustable and heated front seats, proximity unlocking and start button, auto headlights and wipers, and dual-zone climate control.

The Limited grade picks up the Laredo's features and adds 20-inch alloy wheels, a power tailgate, leather seats, a nine-speaker Alpine stereo, sat nav, dark-tinted rear glass, heated steering wheel and dual exhaust.

The Trailhawk gets all of the above but swaps the wheels for 18-inch alloys with Kevlar-reinforced tyres, and adds under-body skid plates.

The Overland gets the Limited's features and adds a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control, auto parking, ventilated front seats, plus a wood and leather steering wheel.

The SRT gains the Overland's features and adds a flat-bottomed steering wheel, leather and suede seats, launch control, active noise cancellation and adaptive damping.

Engine & trans

BMW X37/10

The xDrive20d kicks off proceedings with its 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine good for 140kW and 400Nm. It pairs with an eight-speed automatic that shuffles its power to all four wheels. The combination will serve up a 8.0sec sprint to 100km/h (though it doesn't feel that fast).

Step up to the petrol-powered xDrive30i, and you'll find a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder unit nestled under the bonnet, producing 185kW and 350Nm, which is paired with an eight-speed "sport" automatic. It too sends its power to all four wheels, and will trim the sprint to 100km/h down to 6.3sec.

But our pick of the current-engine bunch is the xDrive30d, which makes use of a six-cylinder diesel engine good for 195kW and 620Nm. It pairs with the same eight-speed "sport" automatic as the 30i, but produces a sharper sprint to 100km/h of 5.8sec.


Jeep Grand Cherokee9/10

The engine line-up for the Grand Cherokee is straightforward. The petrol engines for all but the SRT are an upgraded version of the previous model's 3.6-litre V6 with 3kW more power for a total of 213kW. Torque stays put at 347Nm.

All diesel engines are a 184kW/570Nm 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6, which is carried over from the previous model.

The SRT is special – under that nostrilled bonnet there's 6.4 glorious litres of naturally aspirated V8 Hemi making 344kW/624Nm. Jeep has left this one untouched from the previous model, too.

Shifting the gears in all grades is the super-smooth eight-speed ZF automatic transmission.

The Trailhawk and Overland have Jeep's 'Quadra-Drive II' 4WD system which makes them more capable off-road then the Laredo and Limited with their 'Quadra-Trac II' permanent 4WD.

The major difference between the 4WD systems being that Quadra-Drive II has an electronic slip differential while the other uses traction control and braking to counter slippage. The SRT has the 'Quadra-Trac Active On-Demand' 4WD system.

Fuel consumption

BMW X38/10

The smallest diesel is predictably the most efficient choice, sipping 5.7 litres per hundred kilometres on the claimed/combined cycle, with CO2 emissions pegged at 149g/km.

The petrol variant - the xDrive30i - sees fuel use climb to a claimed/combined 7.6L/100km, with emissions a claimed 174g/km. Finally, the biggest diesel should return 6.0L/100km (claimed/combined) and 159g/km of C02.

Fuel tank size is 60, 65 and 68 litres respectively.


Jeep Grand Cherokee7/10

The most fuel-efficient petrol Grand Cherokee is the rear-wheel drive Laredo which according to Jeep returns a combined consumption number of 9.9L/100km.

But wait – the 4WD petrol Laredo's official figure is 10.0L/100km, same with the petrol Limited. New to the V6 petrol is a stop-start system which would be super-helpful in achieving that figure.

The diesel Laredo, which is 4WD, has a claimed combined fuel consumption number of 7.5L/100km. Ditto for the diesel Limited, Trailhawk and Overland.

After an hour of driving in the Trailhawk on highways and country roads our trip computer was reporting 11.7L/100km.

The SRT likes a drink. The V8 petrol engine has a claimed combined figure of 14.0L/100km and that's why the SRT didn't make it into the top five most fuel efficient SUVs list.

Driving

BMW X38/10

It's actually pretty hard to go too far wrong in the premium mid-size SUV market at the moment, with the other Germans especially kicking all sorts of goals. And happily for BMW, this new X3 is packing the right skillset to launch right into the thick of that field.

We spent the bulk of our time in the biggest diesel, the xDrive30d, and it's so impressively smooth, quiet and effortless in its acceleration that you can genuinely forget you're driving a diesel at all. The smaller diesel lacks the outright punch to overtake quickly and cleanly, and is probably better suited to city life, and while the sole petrol option improves matters, its the rich stream of torque on offer from the big six-cylinder diesel makes it our pick of the bunch.

The eight-speed transmission is a treat, too; silky smooth in its changes, and quick enough to feel near-enough telepathic when you plant your right foot.

Plenty of work has gone into improving the ride, handling and NVH, or in other words, how quiet and cosseting the interior is, and even on loud road surfaces the cabin is impressively quiet, and the standard suspension strikes a handy balance of supple and sporty, so much so that, even on the twisting stretches of tarmac, there's seemingly no need to lean on the optional adaptive dampers (leaving a handy $1900 in your pocket).

But the big news in the cabin is the adoption of BMW's Driving Assistant Plus (BMW's autonomous technology) as standard on the 30i and 30d, meaning you can drive hands-free for up to 40 seconds. It's not infallible, of course, and will only work consistently when there's clear road markings, but it's a very handy safety net.


Jeep Grand Cherokee8/10

The Trailhawk and the SRT were the only variants available to test drive at the launch of the updated model.

The program was pretty intensive with an off-road leg, a stint at a racetrack and plenty of road driving in between.

The hilly off-road course we took the Trailhawks through wasn't the most challenging, but the rain changed that a bit making the grassy slopes and clay ruts as slippery as ice.

With the Trailhawk in low range and on its highest air suspension setting giving us 260mm of ground clearance we wriggled our way through the off-road course fairly easily. There were some steeper sections which required a bit of brute force and momentum to combat slippery clay and gravity but the Jeeps soldiered through without any dramas, and plenty of hilarious fun.

The Trailhawk's Kevlar-reinforced tyres weren't needed on this soft stuff, but there are thousands of kays of tyre-killing tracks with rocks like spear heads lying in wait all over Australia where they'd be handy.

Grand Cherokees all have a unibody construction, so if you're looking for more of a hardcore off roader in the Jeep range then the body-on-frame Wrangler may be a better bet.

The Trailhawk comes with Jeep's 'Off-Road Pages' app which allows you to monitor suspension, traction and Hill Ascent Control speed.

The unibody construction gives the Grand Cherokee a more car-like ride and on the road the Trailhawk was comfortable and composed, although that air suspension is a little floaty.

At 100km/h the Trailhawk lowers itself for better aerodynamics, but there was a decent amount of body roll when pushing hard through corners… unlike the SRT.

The SRT's suspension is set up for higher performance with Bilstein adaptive dampers and hollow stabiliser bars front and rear. Sport and Track modes firm the suspension for better handling along with making the throttle more responsive.

I've driven the SRT on racetracks and the road before, but some quick laps around New Zealand's Pukekohe Park circuit brought back the grin that only 2.4 tonnes of metal seeming to defy all the laws of physics can induce.

That naturally aspirated V8 Hemi is a lazy beast that seems to take it's time to wind up rather than deliver the same brutal kick of the twin-turbo V8 in a Mercedes-AMG GLE63, still 0-100km/h in a claimed 4.9sec is quick. What it lacks in spontaneity it makes up for in theatrics – the gurgle at idle is delicious and it gets angrier the more you kick it in the guts.

The launch control function in the SRT is foolproof, too. Just press the button which looks like a dragstrip 'Christmas tree' on the centre console, place your left foot on the brake and plant your right foot on accelerator – release the brake and enjoy the jump to hyperspace… well, almost.

Safety

BMW X38/10

The safety story starts with six airbags (dual front, front-side and curtain), as well as cruise control, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and a city-speed auto emergency braking system that detects pedestrians that BMW calls its Approach Control Warning. You’ll also find parking sensors front and rear, a reversing camera and a parking assistant function that will tell you if you’ll fit in a parking space, all of which arrives as standard on the xDrive20d.

Stepping up to the 30i or 30d adds Driving Assistant Plus, which includes Active Cruise Control with AEB, cross-traffic warning and steering and lane assistants that form part of BMW’s autonomous package (the same that appears on the 5 series), and that will allow you - in the right conditions - to take your hands off the wheel for spells of 40 seconds.

The X3 was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when tested in 2011, but the new-generation model hasn't been tested yet.


Jeep Grand Cherokee7/10

The Jeep Grand Cherokee has been awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP rating. All Grand Cherokees have seven airbags, a reversing camera, trailer sway control, but only the Overland and SRT grades come standard with advanced safety equipment such as AEB and lane departure warning. The equipment can be optioned on all grades from the Limited up.

You'll find three top tether points and two ISOFIX points in the second row.

There's also a full-sized spare wheel under the boot floor.

The update has brought two more advanced safety items – blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert but these are only standard on the Overland.

Ownership

BMW X37/10

The X3 range is covered by BMW's three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, and falls under the brand's condition-based servicing program. You can pre-pay your service costs when you buy the car, from $1440 to $2650, depending on the package you choose.


Jeep Grand Cherokee8/10

The Grand Cherokee is covered by Jeep's five-year/100,000km warranty – an offer which was announced earlier this year.

There's also life-time roadside assistance if the vehicle's serviced at a Jeep service centre.

Servicing is recommended annually or every 12,000km for the 3.6-litre engine variants and is capped at $425 for the first, then $625 for the next, $425, then $725 for the fifth year.

For the 3.0-litre diesel servicing is recommended annually or every 20,000km and capped at $665 for the first, $1095 for the second, then $665, then $1195 and at five years it'll be $665.