There comes a time in one’s life where one is faced with decisions that require the use of the brain and not the heart. We know, it is the M3 (or M4, or M5 for that matter) that you want. Yet, circumstances, and perhaps your life partner, dictates that buying an SUV guarantees you a spot on the bed. No, not even the 330i will help.
The thought of driving something big and seemingly lumbering might not be appealing due to its perceived clumsy handling. However, do note that the latest slew of SUVs can juggle the corners rather well. And one of the better ones is this BMW X3.
It comes down to the X3’s sublime all-wheel-drive system. Called xDrive, the system jots down the speed of each wheel and then alters power and torque going into the tyres. So for roads with uneven grip and elevation, the system will increase or decrease the speed of each and every wheel when needed. And in some situations, xDrive will even turn the SUV into either a front-wheel-drive or a rear-wheel-drive vehicle.
You won’t feel the torque distribution to the wheels, everything is calculated and executed in mere milliseconds, in spite of the frequent alterations made by the system. The X3 really is an agile beast. It’ll string up the corners without giving in too much body roll. The steering is well-weighted and accurate, which makes it easy to keep the X3 tracking the right driving lines.
We can’t really talk about handling without mentioning the ride. It is firm, as with all BMW vehicles, yet there’s enough travel in the spring and dampers to flatten the road.
No one expects this kind of agility from a vehicle this large. Compare the measurements between this and the previous-generation X3, the new one is longer and broader, and has a more length added to the wheelbase for legroom. The X3 also rides higher at 204mm; most will use this to drive on curbs for parking. And yet, much to the envy of many dieters, the X3 has lost up to 55kg in the process.
Powering this mass is the responsibility of the 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged engine that generates 248hp and 350Nm. The engine is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission that executes gear shifts effortlessly quick. Working together, the drivetrain sends the X3 from 0 to 100kph in a hot hatch-like time of 6.3 seconds, and up to a top speed of 250kph.
On the road, the perception of the numbers doesn’t precisely match real-world performance. The acceleration doesn’t feel dramatically rapid and the world around you is taking its time moving backwards. Yet, the speedometer tells a different story.
Nevertheless, passengers will be moving in high levels of comfort within a well-appointed, high-quality interior. The Vernesca leather that wraps all seats feel soft. Wood panels finished in Pearl Chrome seems to tone down the ambience and elevates the hushed vibes of the interior.
Its dashboard’s design is unmistakably BMW, especially with its driver-biased centre console and a large screen up top. The analogue instrument panel has been replaced by another screen that displays the meters and gauges that changes per the drive mode.
Interior usefulness is also in the spotlight. The rear seats can be folded down to expand the boot space up to 1,600 litres from the 550 litres at default. The boot floor has clips that you can use to strap movable object with an elastic net.
No one will complain about getting caught riding in an X3, not when the exterior is sculptured for road-presence. It’s a good-looking vehicle — long bonnet and short overhangs on both ends give it a sporty stance. The grille is more significant than ever before, and it fits perfectly on the X3’s nose.
There’s much to like about the X3. It’s has power, handling, comfort, space, practicality and luxury all wrapped up in an SUV; it is quite the complete car. In fact, if you’ve taken the X3 a couple of times around the block and into some ruts, you’ll find that it is also quite charming. In many ways, the X3 is the square peg for that square hole.
(Note: The test unit came without fog lights but the ones on sale will have them.)
Specification: BMW X3 xDrive30i Luxury
Engine 1,998cc, 4-cyl., scroll turbocharger, Valvetronic | Transmission 8-speed automatic, all-wheel drive | Power & Torque 248hp @ 5,200-6400rpm / 350Nm @ 1,450-4,800rpm | Performance 0-100kph in 6.3s, max speed 250kph, 7.4l/100km combined | Price RM313,800 on-the-road without insurance | Score 9/10