The think tanks at Bavaria finally decided to release a new generation of its famous SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle), the X3, and what follows is a write-up of my encounter with the X3 xDrive35i. One look at the X3 and I was thinking, “Is this the X5?” Of course not. There is a slight increase in the overall dimension of the vehicle which is one of the main factors that contribute to its X5-ish looks. The original lines of the first generation X3 are effectively maintained and improvised which renders a classy-yet-modern stance to the vehicle. Also, the overall boxy feel of the older X3 has been reduced, thanks to some intelligent design cues. And thus the new X3 joins the league of modern Beemers. The 19” wheels on my vehicle also added to the visual treat.
Now, let’s do some driving. Crank the engine and the 3 liter inline six cylinder starts with no big drama and settles into a smooth idle. Now you get to select 3 drive modes out of which Sport+ is the one for the boy racer in you. You suspension stiffens up, you get a sharper responding throttle and steering. The seat-belts also tighten up to keep you in place. Ground the accelerator and you can feel all of the 225 horse power from the six cylinders delivered to all the wheels. The Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) sees that no power is wasted in wheel-spin and provides enough power for that perfect launch. It even controls throttle response in corners ensuring that you do not lose control midway. The X3 feels decently quick for a vehicle weighing around 2000kg and the eight-speed automatic transmission flows through the ratios with ease. The acceleration is brisk and the vehicle remains settled even amidst quick lane changes. Passenger comfort goes for a toss in the Sport+ mode combined with aggressive driving. The servotronic variable-ratio steering ensures superfast turn-ins and good feedback. The rpm meter hovers around the 6500-7000 range ensuring peppy performance throughout along with some raspy exhaust notes. However, if you feel like going a bit easy on the throttle and want some rest, there is cruise control with braking function which slows down the vehicle if the vehicle immediately in front slows down. The 4 disc brakes on the X3 performed well under emergency braking situations and inspired confidence.
Open the door and instantly you feel that it is a lot easier to get in and out of the vehicle. Is it the dimensions? Or the clever engineer? Or a combination of both? Whatever it is, ingress and egress is a much easier task now. Onto the driving seat and you are welcomed by a nice feeling steering and crisp looking analogue gauges. Next to the gauges, you can find a clean and uncluttered centre stack, thanks to the BMW iDrive system. The iDrive on the vehicle is the latest evolution and much simpler to use than in the previous models. The beige coloured leather and warm-tone wood trim add to the overall cabin ambience and make the X3 a pleasant place to spend time in. Controls are easy to reach and hint about being built with good quality in mind. Ambient lighting throughout the vehicle adds to the feel-good factor. The 8-way power-adjustable front seats are a delight by providing you with lots of options to get into that perfect posture. The panoramic moon-roof on our xDrive35i ensures that you stay close to nature at all times. The sound system on the vehicle is also top notch, delivering a pleasurable octave always. On a negative note, some panel gaps in the cabin are quite annoying and can be a black mark on the aesthetics. Still, the new cabin is much improved in comparison to the previous generation vehicle.
The vehicle features front passenger air bags as well as curtain airbags which provide ultimate safety in the event of a crash. BMW X3 tops in the Euro NCAP crash test in its class for ultimate driver and passenger safety which provides the occupants with that extra peace of mind. There is also an assistance system for parking known as Park Distance Control (PDC) which uses cameras and sensors together to guide you effortlessly through tight parking spots. The vehicle also features adaptive xenon headlights which ensure that you get the best illumination in every situation. Run-flat tires on the X3 ensure that you do not get stuck in the middle of nowhere or lose control in the event of a puncture. Tire pressure sensors ensure that you are running on the optimum tire pressure values for the best performance and safety.
On the whole, the BMW X3 provides an exciting and absorbing drive experience coupled with good ergonomics and safety. Although the pricing seems expensive compared to its competitors, the thrilling drive experience makes it up, for me at least. In this league, anyone close to the X3 would be the likes of Volvo XC60, Infiniti EX35 and Mercedes GLK350.So if it’s a fast going vehicle with off-roader looks that thrills you, do not look further; the X3 is made for you.