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Snow Report from an X3

Snow had fallen the night before and lay thickly
across the road, with a fresh fall starting as we pushed BMW's shiny new X3 softroader through the icy
mountain landscape above Launceston in northern

It was an almost surreal scene as the white carpeted
road chased telegraph poles into the distance, snow
swirling across the invisible surface with only the
guide posts to mark our way.

The outside temperature display of our car read zero
degrees Celsius, readouts in other cars actually dipped below freezing.

As the road began a series of short sharp, climbing
turns the high-priced Pirellis of some cars scrambled
for traction.

Other less fortunate motorists had slewed off the
road while one unlucky camper van sat with its nose
pushed into an embankment.

At no time however did BMW Australia consider
calling off the jaunt that took us in a large 200km plus loop around the Great Lake before heading back to
warmer climes of Launceston.

The much anticipated X3 joins larger brother the X5
that has been a "tear away" success for the company
since its launch a couple of years back.

Like other manufacturers BMW has discovered
there is a huge demand for off-road and soft-road style
vehicles, particularly in the luxury segment.

BMW describes the vehicle not as a traditional
4WD, not in the current idiom SUV (Sports Utility
Vehicle) but as an SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle), with
even more car-like dynamics, claiming it creates an
entirely new segment.

"The X3 will form a substantial pillar in our growth
beyond the core brands that we have," spokesman
John Kananghinis said.

The X3 does not look that much smaller than X5
until you venture inside where the accommodation is
more in keeping with that offered by a 3 Series model.

But there is still a substantial amount of rear legroom and the useable luggage area is almost as large.

There are three different models, a manual and
automatic 2.5-litre straight six and a 3.0-litre straight six – the latter the same engine that powers the base model X5.

Prices for the X3 start at $65,300 for the 2.5 six-
speed manual, climbing to $67,900 for the 2.5 auto and
toping out at $74,600 for the 3.0-litre six auto.

We were able to sample both the 2.5-litre and
3.0-litre five-speed, tipshift autos and can report that both deliver plenty of punch.

There's nothing disappointing about the smaller
engine, certainly at the price.

And there's not much to differentiate the cars, which
all have the same tailpipe arrangement unlike the X5.

The 2.5-litre straight six is good for 141kW of power
and 245Nm of torque and in manual form can sprint
from 0-100km/h in 8.9 seconds (auto 9.8secs) with a
top speed of 208km/h..

The larger 3.0-litre engine produces 170kW and
300Nm and is good for 8.1 seconds, with a top speed
of 210km/h (221km/h with the sport pack fitted).

Drive is transmitted to all four wheels through
BMW's XDrive system, with torque split variably and
infinitely between front and rear wheels. Ground
clearance is rated at 201mm.

BMW claims the xDrive neutralises understeer or
oversteer in fast cornering, but we discovered the
vehicle still had a tendency to oversteer on the wet,
slippery bitumen hairpins that we encountered.

Overall, however, the X3 remained supremely
confident in a range of conditions.

Backing up xDrive is stability control, ABS brakes,
Hill Descent Control and Cornering Brake Control.

Standard equipment includes 10 airbags, multi-
function leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise
control, 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, rain sensor
and automatic headlight control, fog lights, climate
control airconditioning, trip computer, and CD sound

The quality is typical BMW with excellent fit and
finish, but we disliked the overuse of grey, lower body protective cladding on lower spec cars, particularly those with lighter contrasting paintwork.

Meanwhile, the rear seats seemed rather firm and the
vehicle packs only a space saver spare wheel.

The 3.0-litre diesel engine from the X5 is also under
consideration for the car, but as yet is not available in right-hand drive – and if we get it will not arrive until later in the vehicle's life cycle.

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