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BMW X3 2014 Review

EXPERT RATING
7
The first-gen X3 was one of those, "Quick, we need a car in a segment we don't yet occupy" cars. Funny looking and without an obvious reason to buy it (too close to the X1 in size, why not have an X5 instead price-wise?), it was marooned. The second generation made a lot more sense as it grew in size to fit much more

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The first-gen X3 was one of those, "Quick, we need a car in a segment we don't yet occupy" cars. Funny looking and without an obvious reason to buy it (too close to the X1 in size, why not have an X5 instead price-wise?), it was marooned.

The second generation made a lot more sense as it grew in size to fit much more sensibly between X1 and ever-expanding X5. It also looks a lot better, handsome even. It needs to be because its main rival, the Audi Q5, is a bit of a looker. It's now time for the X3's mid-life update. To look at it, it's not exactly obvious but it gave us a great excuse to spend some time with the top of the range model.

VALUE

The X3 range starts at a tick under $61,000 with the xDrive 20i, with the 20d arriving at $64,400. Another petrol the 28i jumps to $72,930 before the 30d finishes the range. Unlike the X1 and X5 ranges, all are all-wheel drive.
Our (deep breath) X3 xDrive 30d xLine is the top of the range in Australia. With xDrive (all-wheel drive), 30d (three-litre turbo diesel) and xLine trim, it weighs in at $77,400 before options.

The xLine trim is a little bit fancy-looking, with lots of aluminium trim on the outside and a set of 19-inch double spoke wheels and aluminium look blades along the base of the doors. It also sports bi-xenon lights with washer, remote central locking, fog lights, roof rails and auto headlights and wipers.

Inside, the seats are trimmed in Nevada leather (nicer than the Dakota on other models) with an appealing dark copper trim where one might expect dodgy plastic wood or aluminium elsewhere in the range. There's also dual-zone climate control, electric tailgate, X logos everywhere, USB and bluetooth, Hi-fi sound package, leather wheel, cruise control, professional sat-nav and a rear-and-around-view camera with parking sensors. Our X3 had metallic paint ($1900), a huge panoramic sunroof ($3000) and DAB digital radio ($800).

DESIGN

This BMW X3 is noticeably bigger inside and out than the last one, with enough passenger space to make you wonder if an X5 is necessary. There's tons of space, particularly headroom front and rear, and big comfortable seats for front passengers. The boot is a good size, although not nearly as big as X5.

The rear bench can easily take three adults and is split 40/20/20, creating a flat load space that's easily accessible. The boot floor is flush with the rear bumper. The BMW xLine packages puts the emphasis, one assumes, on elegance, with satin aluminium bits and pieces on the outside, big 19-inch alloys as well as some surprisingly subtle interior trim pieces in the same aluminium.

The seats are a bit flat in the front when you've got the foot down but are otherwise very comfortable and provide good support for long drives. Everything works really well and, as if to nod to the old car's black sheep reputation, the wiper and indicator stalks are different to any other BMW we've driven and the iDrive screen is set into the dash, rather than poking out of it.

SAFETY

A long list of safety features is headed by six airbags, ABS, dynamic brake control, dynamic stability control (with "extended contents" no less), rollover sensor, front seatbelt pretensioners, and active front seat headrests.
The X3 scored five ANCAP stars.

INFOTAINMENT

The X3's 8.8-inch screen is set into the dashboard and is controlled by the iDrive controller from the centre console. This model features the hi-fi stereo package which means double the wattage over the lower models with nine speakers delivering a clean and bassy sound.

The sat-nav is well detailed and easy to use and when thrown at a regional centre performed rather better than, say, a Lexus sat-nav. The screen also displays the rear-view camera and very useful surround view camera, which gives a top-down 360 degree view around the car, very handy in shopping centre car parks.

ENGINE / TRANSMISSION

BMW's straight-six turbo-diesel provides the power in the 30d. Familiar to X5 owners, the 3.0-litre twin scroll turbo spins out 190 kW and a gigantic 560 Nm of torque. Coupled with the ubiquitous eight-speed ZF automatic and xDrive all-wheel drive, the big X3 will rocket to 100 km/h in a handy 5.9 seconds.

With the aid of stop-start, Eco Pro mode and brake energy regeneration, BMW claims 5.9 litres per 100 km but we had difficulty getting close to that with an average of 8.9 L/100km, which included a long highway drive. In isolation, that highway run saw us average a mere 5.0 L/100km.

DRIVING

Obviously, with a body this high and a bias towards comfort, it's hardly going to trouble hot hatches in the corners. What it does do is contain the big, high body without ruining ride comfort and delivering a tidy, competent chassis.

The electric steering helps disguise the obvious weight of the car while the suspension soaks up the hammering a set of 40 aspect tyres on 19-inch wheels could dish up for passengers. The X3 is clearly not intended to go off-road. The standard tyres are Pirelli P-Zeros, with 245s up front and 275s at the back, which is a lot of sporty rubber on the road. This means tons of grip and a bit of a racket on concrete surfaces.

It's a surprising amount of fun, however - all that grip coupled with all-wheel drive and the thrust from the engine means you can stay with smaller, more nimble, cars by flattening the throttle out of corners. You won't beat them, but you'll keep them in sight.

The brakes are more than up to the job, with good feel while the nose resists diving. Get too enthusiastic and understeer will set in but if you switch on Sport + you can fix the understeer with a heavy right foot.

Pricing Guides

$35,000
Based on 61 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$28,990
Highest Price
$49,988

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
xDrive 20d 2.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $31,950 – 38,868 2014 BMW X3 2014 xDrive 20d Pricing and Specs
xDrive 20i 2.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $28,990 – 40,888 2014 BMW X3 2014 xDrive 20i Pricing and Specs
xDrive 28i 2.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $31,990 – 36,990 2014 BMW X3 2014 xDrive 28i Pricing and Specs
xDrive 30d 3.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $34,888 – 49,988 2014 BMW X3 2014 xDrive 30d Pricing and Specs

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EXPERT RATING
7
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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