There are two engines, a 2.0 and a 3.0, each available with two power outputs
There are two engines, a 2.0 and a 3.0, each available with two power outputs

BMW X3, car review: Cool, fast and efficient – the model of a modern SUV

The 4x4 is as stylish as they come and an absolute pleasure to drive

John Calne,Whatcar
Friday 25 December 2015 15:58
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Who’d ever have thought the day would come when BMW offered a car with nothing but diesel engines?

Probably the same person who thought BMW would one day be selling 4x4s. And sure enough, here’s the X3 – stylish, classy, comfortable, great to drive and available with any kind of engine you want.

So long as it’s a diesel.

The X3 handles very tidily, with plenty of feel through the steering

There are two engines, a 2.0 and a 3.0, each available with two power outputs. Thus you can have from 148bhp to a seriously quick 308bhp, and whichever you go for you’ll enjoy exceptionally good fuel economy.

That means low running costs, whether you buy privately or have one as a company car. The X3 is hardly cheap to buy, but it’s packed with safety kit and holds its value well – though earlier models scored poorly on customer satisfaction.

A quartet of big blokes will climb aboard without a hint of abuse for the driver

Where you definitely will get satisfaction is behind the wheel. The X3 handles very tidily, with plenty of feel through the steering, and it rides just as comfortably. A caveat here is that all the versions we’ve tested have had adaptive damping, which isn’t standard across the range.

Models with 3.0 engines have an eight-speed auto box as standard. It’s optional on the 2.0 units, which otherwise get a much less impressive six-speed manual. Whether you tick the options box or jump at the excuse to go for a faster engine, getting an auto is worth it if you possibly can.

You can have from 148bhp to a seriously quick 308bhp

Things you don’t have to pay extra for include iDrive, leather, two-zone climate, all-round park assist, cruise, nav, dusk and rain sensors and an electric tailgate. So the X3 is well equipped, and the cabin is quite classily appointed with predictably strong build quality.

It’s roomy, too – a quartet of big blokes will climb aboard without a hint of abuse for the driver. Try putting someone in the centre seat at the back and that might change, but when you’re carrying stuff rather than people the rear bench drops with a 40:20:40 split to create a huge load bay.

It all goes together to make the X3 a really good, practical and very economical SUV that’s as stylish as they come and an absolute pleasure to drive. Steer clear of the manual box and go looking for the optional Variable Damper Control, and you’ll be aboard a car that puts a big tick in pretty much every box.

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