BMW X3 VS Toyota Fortuner
- Scorchingly fast
- Gives its rivals a run
- Terrific chassis
- Apple CarPlay price is extortion
- Some (not me) find the ride too hard
- Needs more visual aggro
- Good value
- Advanced safety tech
- Fold-up third row seats
- Not blessed with good looks
- Firm ride
Big fast SUVs have long been a guilty pleasure of mine. My brain has been telling me for years, since the first time I drove one - the first-gen Audi SQ5 - that they're silly and wasteful and 'not my kind of car'.
The Europeans - and latterly, the Americans - seem to be playing to an audience of me, convincing my prejudiced head that my try-anything heart is right: over-engined, jacked-up, stiffly-sprung family wagons are as much fun as anything else.
The X3 M is BMW's first full-fat M version of the X3, a car that has never really fired the imagination until this third generation. First we got the very good X3 M40i, now we have a 375kW, twin-turbo straight-six screamer, the M Competition.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Lots of things happen by accident. Children, the discovery of penicillin, putting a kiss at the end of an email to your boss. We’ve all been there.
But nobody buys a Toyota Fortuner by accident. Yep, they may well buy other large seven-seater SUVs, like the Kia Sorento, or Toyota Kluger, without thinking it too much about it, but not the Fortuner.
That’s because the Fortuner isn’t particularly good looking, nor is it wonderfully comfortable to drive. So it’s nothing like a Sorento or Kluger, apart from having the same number of seats.
See, the Fortuner is good at other things, such as being highly capable off-road, because it shares its underpinnings with the Toyota HiLux 4x4. Really, Toyota should have called it the HiLux 7 or the HiLux SUV.
We’ll cover the Fortuner’s strong, and not so strong points in this review of the new and updated range including what safety equipment comes standard, the fuel economy, practicality, price and features, plus what it’s like to live with in the city and drive off the road.
|Engine Type||2.8L turbo|
As much as I love the mental GLC63 - complete with V8 bellow - the X3 M is the one for drivers. While that's a silly thing to say on the surface - what 'driver' is going to buy an SUV? - this is the new reality. We love these things and they're not going away.
While it may not be quite as comfortable as any of its competition or have the V8 cachet of the Jag and the Merc, it still takes the fight to them in what is easily the roomiest and most practical in this niche part of the segment. And it's an enormous amount of fun.
You have plenty of choices in the mid-size fast SUV market - X3 M, GLC63, Alfa Stelvio Quadrifoglio - what's your choice?
Toyota Fortuner 7.5/10
The Toyota Fortuner really should have been called the HiLux 7 or the HiLux SUV, because it is a seven-seat SUV based on the HiLux off-road ute. Sure, its not the most comfortable SUV out there, but this vehicle can go places the Sorentos and Klugers of this world can only dream about.
Like the Ford Everest, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and other ute-based SUVs, the Fortuner is ideal for the family which lives remotely and off-road driving is part of daily life. Or for those who may live in the suburbs and head away on regular adventures towing a caravan or trailer behind.
That’s why nobody buys an SUV like the Fortuner accidentally, the ride and looks will put a Kia Sorento buyer off, but for the right people it’s exactly what they need – a ute with seven seats and a boot.
Picking the sweet spot of the Fortuner range is easy... it's the GXL. Stepping up to the Crusade buys you items you don't need such as a power tailgate. The GXL comes with roof rails, privacy glass, a proximity key and if you want leather seats you can option the premium interior pack which my test car featured.
The third-generation X3 is by far the best-looking and isn't as badly blighted by BMW's current oversized, hatchback-straining grilles. It's not small, no, but in the flesh, it looks fine.
The usual M accoutrements are present, with new front and rear bumpers, skirts and a whopping set of 21-inch alloys. It looks different and marginally more aggro than the M40i and just enough so a vaguely interested observer will notice.
A quick look at the rest of the similarly-sized hard-and-fast SUVs reveals a similar approach.
The seats add some serious excitement, they're a proper set of M seats, complete with the slightly naff light-up X3 M logos in the backrest. But it's predictably well-made, is very comfortable and is full of nice materials.
Toyota Fortuner 7/10
The Fortuner isn’t beautiful, but it is rugged and ready looking. Those tough looks aren’t just for show either, see the Fortuner shares the same underpinnings as Toyota’s HiLux 4x4 ute.
So, the tall ride height and high front end starts to make sense knowing that this is a SUV based on an off-road ute, right down to the ladder frame chassis and the many other components it shares with the HiLux.
The Fortuner is about 530mm shorter end-to-end than a HiLux at 4795mm long, but the same width at 1855mm across and about 10mm shorter in height – although the roof racks see it stand 1835mm tall.
Matching the Fortuner’s rugged exterior is a cabin with a fairly basic design and robust feel. So, while it’s plush in places such as the leather seats that came as part of the premium interior pack on our (GXL grade) test car, there are also the chunky runner floor mats that don’t mind a bath with a garden hose (take them out first, okay?).
Side steps are standard on all grades, but the GXL adds roof racks, privacy glass and chrome door handles.
The Crusade adds more in the way of glamorous touches such as a premium grille finish, a grey coloured front ‘bash plate’, wood grain-look instrument panel and leather upholstery.
This X3, if you need reminding, is bigger than BMW's first SAV (ugh), the X5. That means plenty of room up front, heaps of legroom for most in the back and enough room for five aboard.
Front seat passengers score a pair of cupholders with a cover and the centre rear armrest has two more for a total of four. Add to that bottle holders in each door and your beverage holding capabilities are pretty standard.
The boot starts at an impressive 550 litres, almost tripling to 1600 litres when you drop the 40/20/40 split fold seat. You get a good flat load space when you do that, too.
Toyota Fortuner 8/10
There are some super practical parts to the Fortuner’s cabin, but also a couple of 'why-did-they-do-that?' areas, too.
First, the good points. The side steps are sturdy and meant my six-year-old could climb in and out despite the tall ride height. Also helping him were hand grips moulded into the plastic trim around the B-pillar at 'kid height' for children to hold onto.
Then there are the rubber floor mats, which after a week were covered in mud, sand and potato chips, but I could pull the entire rear mat out and hose off the evidence.
Cabin space is also good and while the third row is too cramped for me at 191cm (6'3") tall, I can sit behind my driving position with plenty of legroom in the second row.
The doors have bottle holders, there are cupholders, trays and hidey holes in all three rows, there’s a cooled glove box and a centre console bin large enough to store a small backpack.
All Fortuners have seven seats and this is where we come to the 'why-did-they-do-that?' moment. That third row doesn’t fold flat, instead the seats fold up towards the side windows and are fastened into position there.
Not only does this eat into your cargo space, but, if not fastened properly the heavy seats can fall back down and as a parent I was concerned about small hands or fingers being in the way.
The cargo capacity with third row folded that way is 716 litres, but with them in place you have 200 litres of boot space behind them.
USB ports are thin on the ground in all grades with just one up front, although there are three 12V outlets on board and the Crusade also gets a 220V power point.
All three rows have directional air vents, with fan speed adjustment in the very back seats.
Price and features
For $157,900, before on-road costs, you may think this car should be absolutely loaded with stuff. And it is. Whether that's enough is up to you, but the price is about right for its segment.
It's worth remembering we only get the up-spec Competition version, BMW saw no point in offering the 'normal' version nobody was going to buy.
For your cash you get 21-inch alloys, multi-zone climate control, ambient interior lighting, keyless entry and start, active cruise control, electronic damper control, digital instrument cluster (not the new 'Live Cockpit'), sat nav, auto high beam, auto LED headlights, launch control, leather seats and steering wheel, electric front seats, head-up display, auto parking, power everything, auto wipers, huge panorama sunroof and a tyre repair kit.
The big central screen features BMW's iDrive, controlled by either the rotary dial or via touchscreen. It's a belter of a system and I reckon it's still the best, although you have to pay for Apple CarPlay - this remains controversial and I wonder how long the company will persist.
Toyota Fortuner 8/10
There are three grades in the Fortuner range – the entry-level GX with a list price of $49,080, the GXL which is $54,350, and the Crusade for $61,410.
The GX comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, cloth seats, air conditioning, an 8.0-inch display with a reversing camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a six-speaker stereo, plus front and rear parking sensors.
The GXL has the GX’s features including the 17-inch alloys, but adds 'Downhill Assist Control', climate control, sat nav, digital radio, privacy glass, power driver’s seat, roof rails, LED fog lights and a proximity key.
The Crusade has all the GXL’s gear but adds 18-inch alloy wheel, Bi-LED headlights, door puddle lamps, leather seats (heated up front), an 11-speaker JBL sound system and a power tailgate.
The pick for value here is the GXL and as with our test car you can option the premium interior pack which adds leather upholstery and power front adjustable seats.
Engine & trans
The X3 M arrives from the US with a shiny new version of BMW's modular six-cylinder performance engine. While the M Performance M40i has a single turbo (B58) straight six, one tiny change to the name - from B58 to S58 - means a heck of a lot.
The S58 takes the same fundamental formula, bolts in two new single-scroll turbos, throws in forged conrods and a few other changes to boost the power to 375kW (500 horsepower) and 600Nm.
That torque figure is available across a nice wide 3350 revs, between 2600rpm and 5950rpm.
Getting all that to the wheels is the M version of BMW's all-wheel drive system xDrive and an active rear differential. The near-ubiquitous eight-speed ZF brokers the connection between that system and the flywheel and it's all impossibly smooth and feels bulletproof.
Toyota Fortuner 8/10
All grades in the Fortuner range come with the same engine – it’s a 2.8-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-diesel which now makes 20kW more power and 50Nm more torque than before with its outputs of 150kW/500Nm.
Shifting gears is a six-speed automatic transmission.
All Fortuners are four-wheel drive. You can select from two-wheel drive, and four-wheel drive in high and low ranges.
The braked towing capacity is 3100kg.
The reality, of course, is different but not unexpectedly so - a week in my hands in the suburbs and a cobweb-clearing early morning run delivered a 14.1L/100km average. Again, not bad given the kind grunt that's on tap.
One of the things I love about BMW is the company's ability to produce a car that on one hand is so normal and competent for the every day but also produce a version that is completely doolally.
The fine folk at M obviously involve themselves from day one so that when they get a finished car they can get cracking on making it properly fast. Obviously, quite a bit has to change for that to happen.
The X3 M is very stiff. Pop the bonnet and you'll see a piece of whatever the metal equivalent of four-by-two keeping the two sides of the car apart.
This is something M does whenever it gets a vanilla BMW, as it has with the M2 and outgoing M3 and M4 pair. To name three. The difference from the driver's seat, when compared to, say, the M40i, is immediate.
The steering is super-responsive, the front of the car reacting incredibly quickly given the X3 M's two-tonne weight.
Even in Comfort mode, the X3 M's ride is pretty firm. That doesn't bother me especially, nor my wife, who has a keen sense of ride quality. It never really falls over the line of being uncomfortable but it's worth knowing if you're considering this and you have to carry passengers.
If you drive around town in either M1 or M2 (in the factory settings at least), you're mad - the suspension becomes very hard and the steering too heavy. In fact, the steering in its Super Sport setting is just too heavy and uncooperative.
Cheerfully belting the 7200rpm redline at every upshift, barking between gears and delivering torque the way a hungry Labrador delivers a headbutt if you get in between it and food, the straight-six is glorious.
The 4.1-second sprint from 0-100km/h is only part of the story. Not many cars can cover ground so quickly and fewer still SUVs of this size and weight can do it with such precision.
When you turn the wheel on the X3 M, the front goes where you want it, instantly. All that under-bonnet bracing prevents the front flexing and shimmying, which is the enemy of going fast. So that sorts out getting into the corner. The best thing is you can push through corners and slingshot out the other side, riding that huge torque slab, the rear wheels doing most of the work with the occasional wriggle to keep you smiling.
A good chunk of the applause goes to the way the xDrive all-wheel drive system and its 'M Active' diff at the rear work together in Sport+ mode.
As colleague Steve Corby discovered at this car's clay-pan launch, the front wheels aren't doing much of the driving when you've turned it all up to 11 in '4WD Sport'.
When the road goes from straight to twisty, the excellent brakes come in to play, hauling the car down from big speeds without complaint. Even better is that in normal driving, they're not grabby and the pedal always lets you know what shape you're in.
Toyota Fortuner 7/10
Right at the start of this review I said the Fortuner isn't wonderfully comfortable to drive and while that’s true my family and I quickly became used to it.
The Fortuner in the GXL grade came to live with us for a week and we used it daily for school drops off, supermarket runs, and a weekend trip to the beach. So, I can give you a pretty good idea what it’s like to live with in the city and suburbs.
If you want to know how it performs off-road take a look at our Adventure Editor Marcus Craft’s review. Crafty drove the GX grade of the Fortuner at about the same time I had mine and between the two of us we’ve covered what it’s like to live it the Fortuner in the city and ‘burbs, plus how it handles itself in the rough stuff.
Also, be sure to check out the video above where we team up to show you what it can do in and out of the city.
What I can tell you is that the Fortuner’s ride is firm. Stiff suspension and its ladder frame chassis meant jiggly journeys, while handling is nowhere near car-like.
If you’ve driven a HiLux, you’ll know what it’s like to drive the Fortuner. Both share the same platform, and have similar driving characteristics, right down to the upright seating position and steering wheel with limited reach adjustment.
Like the HiLux, the Fortuner was refreshed this year and received some excellent updates which improved the way it drives. Best of all is the steering upgrade.
A new variable-flow power steering pump now means low-speed steering is fantastic. I noticed this especially in car parks where I could pilot the Fortuner more easily than before.
The 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel was upgraded as well with more torque and power, and this too makes the Fortuner a better SUV than the previous model which seemed to lack oomph.
There’s good forward visibility, although, when the third row is stowed away those rear side windows are blocked and that made parallel parking a bit of a guessing game at times.
There is a reversing camera, but the picture quality isn’t great, and the front and rear parking sensors got a workout when I was driving.
The trade off for the Fortuner being a bit uncomfortable, with its ladder frame and stiff suspension, is an SUV that is a proper off-road vehicle. We’re talking a wading depth of 700mm, an approach angle of 29 degrees and a departure angle of 25 degrees (ramp over is 23.5 degrees), while ground clearance is 216mm. There’s also a rear differential lock.
As I said, you can read and see what Crafty had to say about its off-road performance in his review, but he found the Fortuner to be talented over challenging terrain and while he also found the ride to be firm, the new steering and extra grunt made this SUV even better in the rough stuff.
You might be interested to know the GX and GXL grades come standard with all-terrain tyres, while the Crusade gets 'highway tyres.'
The X3 M rolls out the door of BMW's North Carolina factory with six airbags, stability and traction controls, front and rear parking sensors, around view camera (including reversing camera), forward and reverse AEB, blind spot sensor, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, reverse cross traffic alert, speed limit recognition and tyre pressure monitoring.
There are also two ISOFIX points and three top-tether restraints.
The X3 scored a maximum five ANCAP stars in 2017.
Toyota Fortuner 8/10
The Toyota Fortuner scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2019. All three grades have AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane departure alert with steering assistance, adaptive cruise control and road sign recognition.
There are seven airbags, and it’s good to see the third row is covered by curtain airbags, too.
Only rear parking seniors were standard across the range previously and now all Fortuners have front parking sensors, as well.
For child seats there are two ISOFIX points and three top tether anchor mounts across the second row.
Under the car is full-sized spare wheel.
BMW offers a segment standard, but increasingly mean-looking, three years/unlimited kilometre warranty. It's not just BMW, though, it's all of the premium Germans. You do get three years roadside assist into the bargain and you can pay to extend the warranty, too.
You can pre-pay your servicing, with a five-year/80,000km Basic package for $3685. If you think you're going to give your X3 M a proper walloping you can opt for the the 'Plus Package'. For a not-inconsiderable $8173.
BMW will cover your brake pads and rotors for the same period as the Basic package.
Service intervals are variable because, as ever, BMWs tell you when they need a trip to the dealer.