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BMW has unveiled the third-generation X3, which will be a crucial model for the Bavarian carmaker as it looks to assert itself at the top of the premium mid-size SUV segment.
Undoubtedly, the headline act will be the introduction of X3 into the M Performance stable, with confirmation that a wicked M40i will be available, packing a 265kW/500Nm punch from its 3.0-litre turbocharged in-line six-cylinder petrol engine.
Sprinting from 0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds with the aid of its launch control function, the spicy SUV can hit an electronically limited top speed of 250km/h. A bi-modal exhaust system with twin black chrome tailpipes ensures there will be a booming soundtrack along the way.
However, despite these performance credentials, it sips only 8.2-8.4 litres per 100 kilometres and emits 188-193 grams of CO2 per km.
This new variant replaces the flagship 225kW/400Nm 35i from the second-gen model line-up, which was not sold Down Under. Similarly, the M40i is not a certain starter for Australia.
Using the existing local range as a template, it is likely the five-seat X3 will be offered locally in 20i, 20d, 30i and 30d guises, with the 30i eschewing the existing 28i.
Therefore, expect to see the 20i and 30i petrol variants with a shared 2.0-litre turbo four-pot unit available in two states of tune – 135kW/290Nm and 185kW/350Nm respectively.
Alternatively, the oil-burning 20d will have the same capacity and cylinder count with outputs of 140kW/400Nm, while the 195kW/620Nm 30d will be the torquiest option thanks to its 3.0-litre turbo-diesel six.
All five powertrains put down power via an eight-speed automatic transmission with BMW's 'xDrive' all-wheel drive system helping provide traction. The 20i will also be offered internationally – excluding Europe – in 'sDrive' rear-wheel drive form.
Three different driving modes – 'Eco Pro', 'Comfort' and 'Sport' – are available on all models, while the 30i, 30d and M40i also include 'Sport+'. Each alters the suspension, steering, transmission and throttle settings.
Measuring in at 4708mm long (+60mm), 1891mm wide (+10mm) and 1676mm tall (+1mm) with a 2864mm wheelbase (+54mm), the all-new X3 has grown marginally when compared to its outgoing model.
Additionally, it can swallow up to 550 litres of cargo, but this figure expands to 1600L when the 40/20/40 split rear seats are folded flat – the exact same capacities it had beforehand.
Improvements to handling are promised by the brand, with reduced mass and range-wide 50/50 weight distribution complimenting the electric power steering. As well, the 'xDrive' set-up has more of a rear bias than before, resulting in sportier dynamics.
Reductions in weight have been achieved thanks to a more liberal use of plastic and aluminium components. As a result, X3 variants are up to 55kg lighter than their equivalent predecessors.
Furthermore, a reduced drag coefficient of 0.29 – which BMW claims is best in class – makes the X3 very slippery, with credit owing to the restyled roof spoiler and active air flaps.
Exterior styling is predictably evolutionary, adopting several elements from the smaller first-gen X1.
Nevertheless, the choice of three style-focused trim levels – 'xLine', 'Luxury Line' and 'M Sport' – will provide a greater point of difference amongst the variants.
According to BMW, each endeavours to tailor X3 towards customer tastes with alternative finishes for the signature kidney grille and underbody protection, as well as distinctive alloy wheel designs.
The 'M Sport' trim level also adds sports suspension, steering and brakes, as well as dynamic damper control – all of which will be available as individual options for other model grades.
Inside, a driver-focused cockpit features yet again, but interior ambience is lifted thanks to the addition of several 'X' logos throughout the cabin that signal the SUV's origins. Upholstery and trim are dependent on the model grade selected.
Standard and optional equipment lists have not been finalised, but items like three-zone climate control, ventilated front seats, panoramic sunroof, ambient interior lighting, electric park brake, 10.3-inch touchscreen iDrive multimedia system, Apple CarPlay support, satellite navigation, voice and gesture control, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, head-up display, wireless smartphone connectivity, WiFi hotspot, electric tailgate, and LED tail-lights will be on offer, with alloy wheels ranging from 18- to 21-inches in diameter.
Moreover, a full complement of safety and driver assistance systems – such as six airbags, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and rear cross-traffic alert – will be available.
The ever-popular premium mid-size SUV class is full of fierce competition, but the X3 is currently holding its own in second place with 1349 sales to the end of May this year – a decrease of 15.7 per cent over its 2016 result.
Regardless, this number puts the BMW just behind the Mercedes-Benz GLC (1467) during the same period, but ahead of the Porsche Macan (1122), run-out Audi Q5 (771), Lexus RX (768), Volvo XC60 (651) and Jaguar F-Pace (629).
The new-gen X3 will start its international roll-out during the fourth quarter of this year, with a local launch to commence from around November.
Pricing and specification details will be released ahead of the unannounced on-sale date, while the public debut of the X3 is expected to take place at the Frankfurt motor show in September.