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BMW X3 & 520d 2007 Review

The 520d and X3 5.2d have punch well above their weight in performance and economy.

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Some people can recite all 50 American states alphabetically, others every rugby league premier side since 1908. There are rumours of a person who knows the second verse of the national anthem;  though surely this is incredible.

If you really want to bore at an international level, though, try learning every variant of BMW.

In past half decade this carsguider alone has driven almost 50 of the blue-and-white-badged models from the puny and pointless 118i to the future-is-here Hydrogen 7.

The latest two to reach us; though not even yet the last due this year; happens to be, in their way, the best the Bavarian has offered in 2007.

'Best' not because they're the quickest or necessarily the most desirable. Rather because by the mad-money standards of the marque,  they're affordable and sensible both economically and ecologically.

And they provide decent dollops of the 'sheer driving pleasure' BMW goes on about in the ads.

The entry level models in their respective ranges, the X3 2.0d SUV and 520d sedan both use the same updated and highly effective four cylinder turbo diesel.

BMW's junior diesel is a gem. Just as the 3-litre six cylinder version challenges the bigger of the marque's own petrol engines; the 2-litre four potter takes it right up to the smaller capacity petrol sixes.

The third-generation all-alloy unit produces 125kW at 4000rpm and a hugely handy 340Nm from as low as 1,750rpm. Compared with the former engine, it offers a 20kg weight saving, a power boost of 10kW and a fuel saving of 10 per cent, while emitting 185 gram of Co2 per kilometre.

From January it will also be available in the 120d and 320d. In X3 form, though, it represents the best metal-for-the-money package BMW offer here.

That is, of course, skewed by Australia's deranged tariff regime under which the behemoth X5 3.0d starts $30K under the same-engined 5 Series sedan.

Even so, in this package the X3 begins to look like more than a shrink-wrapped and cut-rate X5, a criticism that's dogged BMW's medium SUV since its inception.

This new sense of legitimacy is helped by the $62,900 tag, which puts it at a significant remove from the bullying bigger brother. It's a price point that's almost reasonable, one that could conceivably tempt punters who go for top end Japanese SUVs.

While flirting with the options list is a bit like taking a high class call girl to a casino; ruinous and expensive, the 2.0d gets by just fine without gratuitous embellishments such M-Sports kit et al.

It gets by even better because like the 520d in standard form, it's free of the runflat tyres that BMW insists are the best thing since internal combustion but which every New South Welshmen with dental fillings dreads for their rigid ride on our rubbish roads.

If the X3's cabin is starting to look a bit dated the driving experience remains clicks ahead of any comparable vehicle.

Such body roll as there is in this tall, 1750kg BMW informs rather than distract during cornering. In default mode, the X3's permanent all-wheel-drive provides a 40/60 torque split, but will shove it all to one end or the other in extremis.

It's hard to imagine any such contingency this side of certifiable behaviour, with a dynamic stability and traction control program that reacts with calm authority even on such loose surfaces as we encountered.

It's a measure of the unbearable lightness of steering these days that some found the BMW's just a bit heavy. In fact, it's meaningfully weighted and entirely appropriate to an SUV that designed for driverly gratification before all else.

Me? I'd much rather have a 320d wagon if such a thing was to be had here. Yet even an avowed loather of SUVs could roam the X3's natural suburban habitat without feeling a complete turncoat.

And if the X3's performance/economy equation is good (a 9.6 second 0-100km/h sprint time meets 9.7 litres per 100km combined cycle) the 520d gets more of both out of the same engine.

A 'proper' BMW, with the rear wheels driven and the weight distribution about even, it takes about five Kms of B-road driving before you wonder why the 523i costs $5,000 more.

At 8.6 seconds, the 520d is almost half-a-sec quicker to 100km/h from halt. At 6.1 litres per 100km, it cruises 3.2 litres per 100 k more economically.

If progression off the mark isn't exactly linear; the turbo's split second hesitancy feels longer when turning into traffic, the mid-range rush more than compensates. When spooled up, progress in this allegedly lesser 5 Series is seriously sharp, to the extent that you'll want to re-check speed when entering a corner. So composed is this chassis that you're almost always travelling faster then it feels.

Quixotically the base 16s and optional 19-inch M kit tyres are conventional jobbies, while the intermediate 17s and 18s are runflats. Stay with the standard-fit rubber (the 5 Series has a temporary use spare anyway) and be reminded why BMWs remain the keen steerer's choice of the prestige Germans.

There might be nine variants of the 5 Series alone, but the base model provides a good reason not to bother learning about the others.


Snapshot

BMW 520D

price: $79,900

engine: 2.0L/4-cylinder

turbo diesel; 125kw/340Nm

economy: 6.1L/100km (claimed)

transmission: 6-speed auto

 

BMW X3 2.0D

price: $69,200

engine: 2.0L/4-cylinder

turbo diesel; 125kW/340Nm

economy: 7L/100km (claimed)

transmission: 6-speed auto BMW 520D: a flirtatious beginning

Pricing Guides

$12,990
Based on 13 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$8,750
Highest Price
$15,888

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
2.0d 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $9,900 – 13,530 2007 BMW X3 2007 2.0d Pricing and Specs
2.5si 2.5L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $8,750 – 14,990 2007 BMW X3 2007 2.5si Pricing and Specs
3.0d 3.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $12,990 – 15,888 2007 BMW X3 2007 3.0d Pricing and Specs
3.0si 3.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $9,888 – 14,975 2007 BMW X3 2007 3.0si Pricing and Specs

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image of Alfa Romeo Stelvio Compare to the BMW X3 Book A Test Drive Request A Brochure