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BMW X3 and R 1200 GS Adventure Bike 2006 Review

It's a long way from the green hills of Bavaria to the parched plains of Bourke in Australia's outback.

But BMW claims it builds its dual-purpose vehicles tough, so we thought we'd see just how tough they are by taking them to the real outback, out the Back o' Bourke.

We packed a BMW X3 diesel sports utility vehicle to the gunwales and filled the panniers on a BMW R 1200 GS Adventure bike and set off for the outback.

Here you need a vehicle that is built tough and has a big fuel range. The X3 diesel fits the bill with a 67-litre tank and a claimed combined 8.6L/100km fuel economy, giving a potential fuel range of 780km.

However, those are "lab figures" that have little to do with the real world where passengers and luggage and ill-disciplined driving can affect consumption.

We replicated real-world conditions with a pod on the roof carrying a spare wheel, another spare wheel in the back and enough luggage for a family holiday.

The X3 is the little brother to the X5, with a shorter wheelbase, but a new 3.0-litre diesel engine and a big attitude for a "soft roader".

After a punishing 2260km round trip from Brisbane to Tamworth, Bourke to Goondiwindi and back in just 2 1/2 days, the SUV didn't miss a beat, except for a plastic plug cover on the front bumper that kept popping out.

The run-flat tyres were hardly scuffed as it rolled back into the garage, but the battle scars of bush bashing were evident; a thick coating of dead bugs covered the pod and grille.

Fuel consumption is a matter of survival in the outback. Not every town has premium fuel or the right diesel nozzle. And some towns can be hundreds of kilometres apart, so fuel consumption is about range.

The BMW X3 3.0-litre diesel hasn't the range of a bigger, beefier full-size 4WD. Claimed figures have the little Munich SUV running at 8.6L/100km on combined cycle from its 67-litre tank giving it a range of about 780km.

In reality, with weight, gear and people in the car, the figure was more like 10L/100km and a range of under 700km.

From Brisbane to Tamworth (580km), the X3 returned 9.9L/100km. However, the Tamworth to Bourke leg (644km) threw us the worst consumption of the trip about 10.3L/100km.

From Bourke to Goondiwindi (680km), we used about 9.8L/100km and then the bombshell.

For no clear reason the 357km run from Goondiwindi to Brisbane the consumption dropped to 8.8L/100km; the closest it had come to the factory figure on the journey.

In the end, and despite the handicaps we set the X3 in terms of weight and the roof-mounted pod, we were a little miffed at the fuel consumption for the entire 2261km which stood at 9.8L/100km. The $75,400 soft roader didn't miss a beat on the adventure drive.

However, you would think for that money you would get a few creature comforts such as a six-stacker CD player, electric driver's seat and even SatNav. But no, these are extra. There is a fair gouge with these on top of what is already a luxury price.

What's missing in the whole package is refinement. Not so much from a driving dynamics viewpoint but it's more to do with quality of fit and finish inside the cabin, something that has been a big bugbear with the 3-series range.

The plastic housing the switches for the map lights and panoramic sunroof popped out on one side and the glovebox needed a firm shove to the point where you almost needed to slam it shut. There were also some rough finishes to the aluminium trim around the gear lever console.

What cannot be put under the microscope is comfort. It stood the test. Sitting from dawn to dusk over 2 1/2 days could only be described as an armchair ride.

The diesel engine is the holy grail of the entire package. It is bristling with performance and packs a body blow with impressive torque.

The first day on the bike was a mad solo sprint from Brisbane to Bourke in daylight hours to avoid coming to terms with kangaroos grazing on the green pick by the side of the road.

The trip was 950km, with only three short breaks for fuel, although it could have easily done it on two tank loads. The new R 1200 GS Adventure gets a massive 33-litre tank in all markets, giving it phenomenal fuel range for a motorcycle.

Around town, the on-board computer showed fuel consumption in the low fives, but at full tilt on the slippery dirt roads out the back o' Bourke, it showed as high as 7.8L/100km. Overall fuel economy was 6.87L/100km, which gave a range of 480km.

Fast facts


BMW X3 3.0d

Price: $75,400

Engine: 6-cylinder, 3.0-litre diesel, 160kW@4000rpm, 480Nm@1750-2750rpm

Transmission: 6-speed auto with Steptronic

Fuel: diesel, 67-litre tank, 9.8L/100km (tested)


BMW R 1200 GS Adventure

Price: $24,000

Engine: 1170cc, 4-valve Boxer twin, 74kW@7000rpm, 115Nm@5500rpm

Transmission: 6-speed, shaft drive

Fuel: PULP, 33-litre tank, 6.87L/100km (tested)

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Range and Specs

X3 2.5I 2.5L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $6,400 – 9,900 2006 BMW X Models 2006 X3 2.5I Pricing and Specs
X3 2.5SI 2.5L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $6,800 – 10,560 2006 BMW X Models 2006 X3 2.5SI Pricing and Specs
X3 3.0D 3.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $7,600 – 11,770 2006 BMW X Models 2006 X3 3.0D Pricing and Specs
X3 3.0I 3.0L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $7,100 – 11,000 2006 BMW X Models 2006 X3 3.0I Pricing and Specs
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Lowest price, based on 26 car listings in the last 6 months

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