Settle behind the wheel and get ready to punch the starter button and you’ve that pleasant compromise between a perch that’s higher than it would be in an ordinary saloon, yet one still low enough to make you feel a part of the whole driving experience. The X3 range is an all-diesel affair these days and though more powerful engines have been developed for this car. Rest to sixty in 8. 5s on the way to 131mph is about as fast as most people will want to go in a car of this kind, yet this sort of vigorous performance doesn’t get in the way of a class-leading set of running cost figures.
BMW is keen to tell us about this model’s xDrive permanent four-wheel technology, but as you might expect, the sales patter is mainly occupied with the way it can make this compact 4x4 handle just like a BMW 3 Series Sports saloon. Doubtless, the way that this electronically controlled system can distribute torque as needed to all four wheels depending on the grip at either front or rear will be useful in a snowy snap. Apparently, though, it’s really there to make ordinary, everyday tarmac motoring that bit more enjoyable, helping to control the car through bends by, in true BMW style, sending more power rearwards and, if necessary, even lightly braking the inside rear wheel in tight cornering to increase mid-bend agility and traction.
To fit more neatly into the gap between the X1 and the X5, the X3 has grown in its latest guise, longer and wider than its predecessor, yet rather impressively, running out 25kg lighter. As importantly, the rather gawky looks of the MK1 model have been replaced by a far more cohesive piece of design that looks lower and more purposeful, differentiated from the larger X5 by squared-off front headlamps and this strong character line scalloped into the side flanks.
The cabin certainly feels like one befitting this car and the MK2 design’s significantly enhanced leg and elbow room means that two adults can now be relatively comfortably seated in the rear.
The rear bench itself hasn’t any fancy sliding, reclining or removable tricks, but you can specify its push-button folding mechanism in 40:20:40 form to offer a bit more flexibility should you need to increase the 550-litre boot to 1500-litres by folding the back chairs forward. So, whether you need to transport dogs, flat-pack furniture – or even a mountain bike with both wheels attached, it will probably fit.
At the wheel, the dash and seating position are just tall enough for your seat to feel SUV-like and the leather-lined, beautifully finished cabin feels an up-market place to be, dominated by its standard 6. 5-inch colour iDrive display screen. The iDrive control is down by the gearstick, now supplemented by extra buttons to make it easier for you to find everything from navigation to ventilation.
This X3 has come of age in second generation guise. This model is, after all, an immeasurable improvement over the MK1 version in every possible way. Even the best of this car’s prestige rivals can’t match this one’s hugely impressive blend of performance and efficiency. It feels up-market, it rides impressively and, thank goodness, on-tarmac, it drives just as a BMW should.
All of which means that this X3 adds up very nicely indeed.