BMW X3 VS Nissan Patrol
- 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
- Effortless performance
- Superb ride
- Great value
- Steering feel (lack of)
- No AEB
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|
Everyone has a guilty pleasure. A sneaky drive-thru burger, Katy Perry on your iPod, or watching The Golden Girls while dressed as SpongeBob. Okay, so maybe not everyone has that last one.
The urban tank that's currently dominating your screen is mine. It occupies enough real estate to support a medium-density sub-division, weighs a sprightly 2.7 tonnes, and is powered by a 5.6-litre V8 that slurps premium unleaded at an ecologically obscene rate.
But it’s soooooo good.
The eight-seat Y62 Nissan Patrol Ti is so clearly built for the ‘Murican market (where it’s called the Armada) it’s a safe bet the human hairpiece has one in the presidential fleet.
A week behind the wheel should have had us sneering, but all we could do was smile.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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.
The Nissan Patrol Ti is stress-relief on wheels, designed to help you navigate urban family life in quiet and calm comfort. It’s not perfect, using up a reasonable chunk of the planet’s resources in its construction, consuming more than its fair share of precious gasoline, and assaulting many people’s view of what constitutes good automotive taste. But next time you’re sobbing through a YouTube compilation of military homecoming videos, consider the Patrol. Maybe it’s time to set that guilty pleasure free?
Is this Patrol too big and beefy, or right-sized for your family needs? Tell us what you think 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.
Roy and HG dubbed rugby league legend (and political enigma) Glenn Lazarus ‘The brick with eyes’, and it’s not a bad take on the current Patrol’s mammoth presence.
At more than 5.1-metres long, just under two-metres wide, and close to two-metres tall, this is a substantial beast. You’ve never seen 18-inch rims look so small.
Subtle bulges around the wheel arches and along the bonnet go some way to softening the large regions of only subtly contoured sheet metal. The front and rear bumpers are neatly integrated into the flow of the body, and the flashy, three-part chrome grille boldly announces the big Nissan’s arrival.
The profile is bread-box geometric, with more bright metal finish on the window surrounds, door handles, front guard vents and proudly positioned V8 badges. At the back, the Patrol’s upright stance is clear, with more chrome above the licence plate, and oddly intricate LED tail-lights that look like aftermarket specials from Tokyo’s Akihabara electronics district.
Vast expanses of high-quality leather cover the faces of the classy and oh-so-comfortable seats, while a mix of gentle curves and arrow-straight borders define the dash and centre console.
But then it’s as if ‘he of the tiny digits’ choppered in and demanded custom touches, like yet more chrome around the console, instruments and key controls, as well as broad bands of high-gloss timber you’d swear was fake, but Nissan says is in fact “high-grade wood” trim.
But aesthetics is always a subjective call, and from a functional point of view the interior layout works beautifully. The switchgear is clean and simple, the multimedia interface is straightforward and intuitive and the ergonomics are thoughtful and considered.
That said, niggles include a steering wheel that just won’t come up high enough (or a driver’s seat that won’t adjust low enough), the lack of a digital speedo read-out, multiple blanked-out switches at the base of the centre stack (not a good look), and an awkward, US-style pedal-operated parking brake. Curse you, middle America.
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.
Space is something this vehicle has in abundance, and with a wheelbase of close to 3.1 metres, passengers are well taken care of. Actually, five out of eight passengers. But it’s likely the third-row seat will be a kid-zone anyway, and if they’re not old enough to vote, they’re not old enough to complain.
The fortunate pair up front will luxuriate in broad but supportive chairs, with heaps of storage on offer, including a giant central console box (with a nifty two-way lid that provides access for rear seaters), a pair of large cupholders, a generous glove box, and big door pockets with space for bottles. There’s also a drop-down sunglass holder in the roof, a 12-volt outlet, as well as USB and auxiliary line-in media sockets.
Second-row accommodation is probably best measured in hectares, but suffice it to say there’s plenty of room. With the driver’s seat set to this 183cm-tester’s position, head and legroom is limo-like, and there’s even enough width for three grown-ups.
Roof-mounted air-con vents are controlled by a digital panel in the back of the front centre console, there are specific reading lights, big bottle bins in the doors, and a pair of small-ish cupholders in the folding centre armrest.
Yes, third-row legroom is tight for adults, but access is easy thanks to a simple fold-and-roll function on both sides of the centre-row seat. Once back there, the kids have no less than four bottle/cupholders at their disposal, as well as air vents in the roof. And the third row can slide through 20mm for more legroom or storage space.
Even with the third-row seats upright there’s 550 litres of cargo space available. Enough to hold the CarsGuide pram (on its side), or our three-piece hard suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres). Plus there’s a full-width stowage box under the floor. For reference, a full-size Holden Commodore sedan’s boot holds 495 litres.
In this configuration, there are still six cargo tie-down shackles available, with a light and 12-volt outlet also provided. There’s also a full-size (alloy) spare wheel.
Fold the third-row forward, and capacity increases to 1490 litres, which is enough to swallow the pram and luggage set, with room to spare.
Flatten both the rear rows and it’s like looking down the belly of a C-130 Hercules, with no less than 3170 litres of load space liberated. And if weight is a factor, you have a 734kg capacity to play with.
Worth noting the cargo floor, with seats folded, isn’t flat, the ramp angle increasing the closer you get to the front seats, and weirdly, there’s no electronic control for the tailgate. You need the top-spec Ti-L version for that.
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.
When it launched here in early 2013, the Y62 Patrol Ti was priced at $92,850, with an entry-level ST-L ($82,200) below, and the flagship Ti-L ($113,900) above it.
This positioning kicked the evergreen four-wheel drive into new territory, given the most expensive version of the previous (Y61) model weighed in at $72,690.
And sure enough, by mid-2015 the market had spoken, and Nissan Australia ‘repositioned’ the range, culling the base ST-L and lopping a massive $23,400 off the Ti’s price, adding some extra fruit to its specification at the same time.
That $69,990 pricing remains in place, substantially undercutting the V8 petrol-powered Toyota LandCruiser VX, which sits at $94,070. But the Toyota steamroller continues to flatten the Patrol in terms of sales.
When you look at the Patrol Ti’s standard features list, though, you have to marvel at the power of the LandCruiser brand, because this Nissan is loaded.
Included on the Ti spec sheet is, keyless entry and start, ‘leather accented’ trim, eight-way power front seats (including height and lumbar adjust), tri-zone climate-control air con (with rear control), cruise control, sat nav with 3D mapping, ‘leather accented’ steering wheel and shift lever, 8.0-inch colour multimedia touchscreen, ‘Around View Monitor’ (with reversing camera), six-speaker CD/DVD audio with 9.0GB hard drive and Bluetooth connectivity, glass tilt and slide sunroof, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers, side steps, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Not bad at all, but it’s worth noting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are missing in action.
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.
Nissan’s all-alloy, 32-valve, quad-cam VK-series V8 engine started life 15 years ago, debuting in the third-generation Infiniti Q45 (which never saw the light of day in Australia).
It's since gone on to power a range of other Infiniti and Nissan models, and in this most recent 5.6-litre (VK56VD) iteration, develops 298kW at 5800rpm, and a thumping 560Nm at 4000rpm.
The big V8 features ‘VVEL’ (Variable Valve Event and Lift) technology (on the intake side) as well as direct injection. And in case you think the torque peak arrives high in the rev range, 90 per cent of that maximum (504Nm) is available from just 1600rpm.
It’s matched with a seven-speed automatic transmission featuring sequential manual mode (available via the console shifter only) and ‘Adaptive Shift Control’ logic.
Drive can be directed to the rear wheels or all four (in high- or low-range) via Nissan’s ‘All Mode 4x4’ system, offering specific off-highway settings for sand, snow, and rock, as well as a rear diff-lock.
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.
Nissan claims 14.5L/100km for the combined (urban/extra urban) cycle, and doesn’t even venture into the area of stated CO2 emissions.
Without any injudicious use of the right-hand pedal, over roughly 250km of city, suburban and freeway running we managed to exceed that figure by close to 15 per cent, recording an average of 16.5L/100km.
The other not so good news is the V8 turns up its nose at anything less than premium unleaded, so if you live in a capital city, get ready to shell out around $210 dollars to fill the 140-litre tank with 95RON juice.
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.
Driving the Patrol Ti is like eating a freshly baked marshmallow – soft, sweet, and delightfully indulgent.
It’s an effortless, stress-free experience, thanks mainly to the engine’s huge reserves of torque, and the independent (double wishbone front and rear) suspension’s magical ability to soak up even significant imperfections.
You have to consciously remind yourself this is an old school, body-on-frame design. But the magic bit that transforms the Patrol’s ride and handling, is Nissan’s ‘Hydraulic Body Motion Control’ suspension tech.
The system is managed by nitrogen-charged accumulators, with cross-linked piping allowing the transfer of hydraulic fluid between shock absorbers to actively control suspension travel.
In cornering, stiffness is increased to reduce body roll and, in straight running, overall ride quality is enhanced… a lot.
The seven-speed auto is ridiculously smooth, the seats remained comfy and supportive after lengthy stints behind the wheel, and the interior is supremely quiet.
And with all that heft barrelling down the road, big disc brakes (358mm front/350mm rear) with four-piston calipers at the front, consistently pull this sturdy unit up without a hint of drama.
But with the soft sweetness comes a hard truth. The light ‘speed-sensitive’ steering twirls through roughly 5000 turns lock-to-lock, and produces approximately zero road feel.
Nissan makes no bones about the fact the Patrol is aimed at city types, with its 4WD ability mostly applied to towing. And the Ti is able to haul 750 unbraked kilos, with a healthy 3.5-tonnes in scope if your boat trailer or caravan is braked.
Another standard feature that comes in doubly handy when manoeuvring a substantial vehicle like this is the ‘Around View Monitor’, combining bird’s eye, front, rear, and side views. It’s brilliant, and panel beaters should hate it.
While this isn’t an off-road test, if you do decide to take the tribe on a Top-End adventure, standard ‘Hill Descent Control’, ‘Hill Start Assist’, rear diff-lock, helical LSD, and the All Mode system are ready for action.
For the hardcore off-roaders, ground clearance is 283mm, approach angle is 34.1 degrees and the departure angle is 25.9 degrees.
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.
Standard active safety tech includes, stability and traction control, ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, ‘Cross-Traffic Recognition’, and a tyre pressure monitoring system. But no AEB.
If you want higher order features like, ‘Blind Spot Warning’, ‘Blind Spot Intervention’, ‘Distance Control Assist’, ‘Forward Collision Warning’ and ‘Intelligent Cruise Control’, they’re standard on the ($86,990) VTi-L.
On the passive side of the ledger, there’s driver and front passenger head and side airbags, as well as side curtain airbags covering all three rows.
ISOFIX child restraint anchor points and top tethers are included in the outer second row seat positions, with another tether hook in the third row.
The Patrol has not received a safety star rating from ANCAP or EuroNCAP.
Nissan supports the Patrol with a three year/100,000km warranty, with three years roadside assistance included.
Sure, Nissan has a well-deserved reputation for reliability, but with the likes of Kia upping the game to seven years/unlimited kilometres, surely it’s time for a warranty adjustment.
The scheduled service interval is six months or 10,000km, which is a pain when most of the market is at 12 months.
A six year/120,000km ‘Service Certainty’ program locks in pricing for those 12 services, with a low cost of $375, and a high of $1240 (100,000km), which equates to an average of $608 per visit. You’ll also need to factor in $42 for brake fluid every two years/40,000km.