BMW X3 VS Lexus NX
- Clever tech now trickling down
- Quiet and spacious cabin
- Dynamic enough to dispose of twisting tarmac
- Smaller diesel engine lacks overtaking punch
- Wince-worthy option list
- Full phone integration will cost you
- Stylish new exterior
- Top-shelf safety offering
- No need to start ticking options
- Infotainment system is very fiddly
- Not too much in the way of updates here
- F Sport looks far more sporty than it is
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.
So how does the new X3 measure up.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
If Elon Musk could somehow harness the speed at which the new-car market moves, intergalactic space travel would no longer be an issue. Forget hyper-sleep pods and one-way trips that take decades, he could instead be tanning on Mars in the time it takes you to pick up milk.
And that's because new models come and go with a pace that makes the speed of light feel like dial-up internet (or worse, the NBN), and that throws up all sorts of challenges for manufacturers.
Case in point? The good folk at Lexus, who have just launched their updated NX into the premium mid-size SUV segment. And with new suspension, a touched-up grille, some cool new safety stuff and better in-car technology, it all sounds like pretty good news.
Except that, while Lexus has been nipping and tucking, key competitors like Audi and BMW, have been working on all-new models. So the question now is, has this mid-life freshening made the NX cutting-edge enough in the face of all this new competition?
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Regular Unleaded|
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.
Enough to keep the Lexus feeling fresh in a competitive market, this mid-life update also adds plenty of value to the NX equation. Whether improved standard safety, a longer warranty than its key competitors and a fresh new face will be enough to drag buyers out of other all-new models remains to be seen, but it certainly helps keep the NX from showing its age.
Is the Lexus NX edgy enough to tempt you away from its German competitors? Let us know in the comments below.
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.
If no news is good news, then things are looking great for the NX. Fortunately, then, Lexus' little SUV always cut a fine-looking figure on the road, and the small changes keep it looking sharp.
So, new stuff; the pinched-in-the-middle spindle grille of other new-look Lexus product makes an appearance, and does give the front end a cool and vaguely menacing appearance. The grille is the big news, but there are also new headlamp clusters, new alloy wheel designs and new chrome-tipped exhaust tips on the F Sport models.
Inside, the changes are significantly smaller. There's a larger keypad for Lexus' infuriating infotainment system, new interior colours and a bigger, easier-to-read clock. Put it this way, when part of the headline news inside is new, more ergonomically designed air-con buttons, you're not talking huge changes.
But the cabin still feels a bit of a mixed bag, if we're honest. The screen has grown, which is good, but Lexus persists with this weird mouse-pad style system to control it, which, despite being made easier to use this time around, is still plenty fiddly, and feels out of date compared to some of its competitors.
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.
The 4640mm long and 1870mm wide NX is actually pretty spacious wherever you sit. Up front, there are two cupholders separating the driver and passenger, along with a strange box-shaped storage space with a (somewhat suspicious) mirrored lid. There's also a central storage bin, which, in the upper-tier models, is also home to a wireless-charging pad, along with a power source and USB connection.
Step into the back seat, and head-, leg- and toe-room (behind my 172cm driving position) is generous enough for longer trips, and the pull-down divider that separates the rear seat is home to two more cupholders, with room in each of the four doors for bottles.
There are vents (but no temperature controls) for backseat riders, and an ISOFIX attachment point in each window seat, but there are no power or USB ports on offer.
Boot space is an easy-to-load 500 litres, and that number swells to 1545 litres with the 60/40 rear seats folded flat.
Price and features
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.
The NX still arrives in three trim levels; the entry-level Luxury, the performance-styled F Sport and the top-of-the-range Sports Luxury, and there are two unchanged engine options; a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol unit (which is fitted to 300-badged cars) or a 2.5-litre hybrid setup (in the 300h-badged vehicles). The NX is still available in two- or all-wheel drive.
Sadly, though, the extra kit has come at a cost, with price increases across most of the range.
The entry-level (although it sure doesn't sound like it) Luxury cars will set you back $54,800 for the NX 300 and $57,300 NX 300h in two-wheel drive, climbing to $59,300 and $61,800 respectively if you spring for the AWD models.
New stuff includes auto-dipping wing mirrors, a bigger 10.3-inch multimedia screen controlled through a larger and allegedly easier to use remote-touch controller, a shark-fin antenna and new interior colour and material choices. That all joins the existing 18-inch alloy wheels, 10-speaker stereo and leather-trimmed seats.
The big news, though, is the standard inclusion of the Lexus Safety System + package across the range, but we will drill down on those details under the Safety sub-heading.
Step up to the F Sport trim and the cost of entry climbs to $60,800 for the NX 300 and $63,300 for the NX 300h in two-wheel drive (the first time that's been offered), and $65,300 and $67,800 for the AWD cars.
And for that money you'll add a new variable-suspension set-up (a system borrowed from the Lexus LC500), along with four driving modes and performance dampers at the rear. Inside, expect a vaguely sporty focus, with new paddle shifters, metal pedals and new scuff plates. A wireless phone charger arrives here, too, along with a head-up display, heated and cooled front seats and better multi-LED headlamps.
Outside, the sporty wand has been been waved over the F Sport's exterior, with more aggressive front and rear bumpers and a reshaped grille.
Finally, the NX range tops out with the Sports Luxury, which is only available with AWD and will set you back $73,800 for the NX 300 and $76,300 for the NX 300h.
That not-insignificant investment buys you the same variable suspension setup as the F Sport cars, but adds some genuine niceties like a leather-trimmed interior, a full-colour head-up display and a 14-speaker Mark Levinson stereo. You'll also find a moonroof (which is a sunroof, in case you're wondering).
Engine & trans
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.
Yes, the model name climbing from 200 to 300 suggests bigger engines and more power, but both under-the-bonnet options are unchanged for this facelift.
The 300-badged cars arrive with a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, producing 175kW at 4800rpm and 350Nm at 1650rpm. It pairs with a six-speed automatic, and can drive either the front or all four wheels - the latter adding about 60kg to the kerb weight. Expect a 7.3 second sprint to 100km/h in FWD cars, and a 7.1 sec sprint in AWD models.
The 300h cars make use of a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre engine good for 114kW at 5700rpm, and that pairs with an electric motor that lifts total outputs to 147kW and 270Nm. And it's here where the benefits of all-wheel drive shine, with the all-paw cars fitted with a bonus motor at the rear, producing an extra 50kW and 139Nm - although that bonus power is only intended to help with initial traction, and doesn't impact overall outputs.
The hybrid engine pairs with a CVT auto and can be had in two- or all-wheel drive, but performance times aren't quoted.
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.
You'll be utterly unsurprised to hear the hybrid version is the easiest on fuel, sipping 5.6 litres per 100 kilometres on the claimed combined cycle, and 5.7 litres should you opt for AWD. Emissions (C02) are a claimed 131g/km, 133g/km for the all-paw cars.
The turbocharged petrol will use 7.7 (2WD) or 7.9 (AWD) per hundred kilometres claimed/combined, and emissions are pegged at 178g/km (2WD) or 184g/km (AWD).
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.
It's anything but an overhaul, but the little changes don't dent the NX's on-road appeal.
While genuine sportiness still feels elusive, we tested the NX over a huge variety of road surfaces, and it always felt connected and involved, if never quite sporty.
Yes, the tyres will moan and the front end will begin to push wide if you insist on asking too much of it, but drive it as 99.9 per cent of its owners will surely do and the suspension (re-tuned in the entry level model, or all new in the top-tier cars) does an absolutely fine job of sorting out bad road surfaces, while still offering enough dynamic poise to keep you confident on twisting roads.
Lexus tells us that a key focus for this update was ride and handling - hence the suspension adjustments and upgrades - and general NVH (in other words, how quiet and comfortable it is in the cabin), and while it's possibly not quite as cocooning as we were expecting, the cabin is still a nice and refined place to spend time.
In short, it remains an easy and trouble-free drive, only now with plenty of bonus safety stuff that will step in if required.
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.
The NX's safety credentials can't be questioned, with this mid-life update sharing the best of the safety kit right across the range.
Every NX now gets the Lexus Safety System+ package as standard, which includes AEB, active cruise and a lane-departure-warning system. All that stuff joins blind-spot motoring, rear cross-traffic alert, trailer-sway control and an upgraded reversing camera with a new widescreen mode.
The Lexus NX received the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when crash tested in 2015.
The NX is covered by Lexus' four-year, 100,000km warranty, and the Japanese brand will offer you a loan car during each service, or pick up and drop off your car from your home or work. Which is lovely.
Service intervals are pegged at 12 months or 15,000km, with the first one free of charge.