BMW X3 VS Volvo XC60
- 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
- Great looks
- Strong diesel
- Advanced safety technology
- Smallish boot
- Diesel doesn't suit sporty driving
- No full-sized spare
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|
A Volvo XC60 R-Design D5, eh? Not only are you looking at a Volvo, but you’re looking at a diesel one, too.
So, you’re thinking out of the Benz and BMW box, but with a practical element as well, because as anybody who has ever towed a caravan or anything else knows, nothing quite beats diesel pulling power and the fuel saving advantages that go with it.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Premium 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.
The Volvo XC60 R-Design D5 is an alternative take on the prestige mid-sized SUV. There’s the cabin that feels more like modern art, the pioneering safety technology, and it’s easy and enjoyable to drive. The diesel engine can be noisy, and you’ll be busy shifting gears to keep the grunt under your right foot, but in return you’re getting great pulling power.
Would you chose the XC60 R-Design D5 over a Mercedes-Benz or BMW rival? Tell us what you think in the comments.
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.
The XC60 is a beautiful beast – long bonnet, the raked windscreen and set back cabin make for a sleek profile. I’m a fan of those carved-out door panels and the wing style rocker panels, and those famous Volvo hallmarks are strong with this model – that stately grille with is giant badge and the vertical tail-lights.
The R-Design D5 looks almost identical to its petrol twin the R-Design T6 and top-of-the-range R-Design T8 hybrid with its 21-inch matte black and polished alloy wheels and the matte silver mirror caps.
The R-Design D5’s interior is modern and minimalist. The R-Design Sports seats look like those super expensive office chairs that are good for your posture, although I don’t find them overly comfortable (the office chairs and the D5’s seats).
The 9.3-inch vertical touchscreen isn’t quiet as impressive as the giant display in the XC90, but it’s still a unique looking set-up. With that screen taking care of air-con, vehicle settings and the media system the cabin has been de-cluttered, with minimal buttons on display. An aluminium mesh trim snakes its way along that cleanly designed dash, around that display, and the oversized air vents.
The XC60 is a mid-sized SUV with dimensions similar to its Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC and BMW X3 rivals. The XC60 is 4688mm long, 2117mm wide and 1685mm tall.
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 XC60’s cabin is spacious but not overly so, with plenty of head, leg and shoulder room, while in the back, even at 191cm, I can sit behind my driving position with about 30mm to spare. Headroom back there is excellent.
Storage inside is good, with two cupholders and large door pockets in the front, and two cupholders and smaller door pockets in the back. The centre console storage area under the centre armrest is also a decent size.
A boot capacity of 505 litres (with rear seats up) isn’t huge. Rivals such as the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC have 550 litres of cargo space.
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 XC60 R-Design D5 lists for $73,990, which positions it high up in the range for this model. While the D4 and T5 engine variants are available in a couple of trims, the D5 only comes with the R-Design treatment, which includes the R-Design steering wheel, sports seats, pedals and carpet.
The standard features list is extensive. There’s the 9.0-inch vertical touchscreen and a 12.3-inch driver display, sat nav, 360 parking camera, auto parking system, head-up display, 10-speaker stereo system with digital radio, leather upholstery, four-zone climate control, power adjustable driver and passenger seat, proximity key, paddle shifters, roof rails, LED headlights, power tailgate and 21-inch alloy wheels.
All XC60s come with an armoury of advanced safety equipment – you can read about it in the safety section below.
At this price the D5-Design is good value, and you’re getting more features for your money than the T8, which I reviewed as well.
How does the XC60 compare to other SUVs? Well the Mercedes-Benz GLC 250d is a good match for size, features and price at $73,200. There’s also BMW's X3 xDrive 20d M-Sport for $73,450, and Audi’s Q5 2.0 TDI Quattro Sport for $70,700.
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.
The D5 has the most powerful and torquey diesel engine in the XC60 range – a 2.0-litre twin-turbo which makes 173kW/480Nm.
Using two turbos sequentially means turbo lag is reduced, with the first spooling up to 'pre-charge' before the second kicks in at higher revs.
I need to ask you a personal question: why are you thinking of buying the diesel? Please say it’s because you tow. If so, then it’d be a good choice because all of that 480Nm of torque comes in low at 1750rpm and that provides good pulling power.
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.
Volvo says the XC60 D5 should use 5.6L/100km of diesel over a combination of open and urban roads. The trip computer in my car said I averaged 9.4L/100km after a roughly 120km test drive through The Royal National Park (south of Sydney), highways and inner city. While I was using the stop-start system to save fuel, I wasn’t driving to conserve it either.
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.
The XC60 D5 feels special just to sit in with its well-crafted, stylish interior and the driving experience goes a long way to matching that high-quality impression, too.
Steering is effortlessly light but accurate, acceleration is swift, and those brakes are responsive, with great pedal feel.
It’s not all perfect, though. That turbo-diesel engine is noisy, but the cabin is so well insulated you’ll only notice it if you accelerate hard or you put the window down (like I did, to stop and talk to a mate who then told me the engine was loud).
But then the diesel in the X3 xDrive 20d I drove to work in today is also noisy. Even in 2017, that’s the nature of these engines.
The other issue you’ll find with diesel engines is the need to shift up through the gears low in the rev range to take best advantage of the torque on offer. That makes for a busy time on the shifting paddles if you want to have a blast through twisty roads.
The sequential turbo set-up reduces lag impressively – although response is not instantaneous.
The D5 comes with a 'sports-tuned' chassis, but it’s on the firmer side. If you’re planning to spend money on options, throw it all at the air suspension for $2490 - the T8 I tested had it, and the ride was cushioned and composed.
Those LED headlights are excellent and cut through the darkness ahead with impressive brilliance.
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.
Safety is Volvo’s ‘thing’ and the maximum five-star ANCAP score it was awarded this year doesn’t reveal just how impressive its safety performance is.
This new generation XC60 is fitted with AEB, which can detect and stop for animals, humans and other cars. Plus, there’s steering support, blind spot warning, front and rear cross traffic alert and adaptive cruise control.
The XC60 is covered by Volvo’s three-year/unlimited km warranty. Servicing is recommended every 15,000km or 12 months.
Volvo offers two service programs: the basic 'SmartCare' and the more comprehensive 'SmartCare Plus'.
The SmartCare three-year/45,000km plan is $2225 (SmartCare Plus costs $3050); a four-year/60,000km version is $3500 ($5200 with SmartCare Plus) and the five-year/75,000km agreement costs $4230 ($6400 with SmartCare Plus).