2018 BMW X.3 First Drive Review: Shifting the Center of Gravity





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Published on Oct 28, 2017

2018 BMW X3 First Drive Review: Shifting the Center of Gravity

Driving the new X3 M40i that accelerates from 0-60 MPH in 4.6 seconds
The 3 Series might be BMW’s iconic touchstone, but the X3 is fast becoming its lodestone. The sales figures tell the story. In the nine months through September 2017, BMW sold 32,127 X3s in the U.S. It still sold more 3 Series over the same period—43,215—but it’s the trend, not the number, that’s important: X3 sales were up 3.6 percent year on year while 3 Series sales were down 18.6 percent. And that’s not an anomaly—in 2016 3 Series sales finished 25.5 percent down on 2015 while X3 sales were up 38.4 percent. The center of gravity is shifting at BMW.
The third-generation X3 is therefore a critically important new vehicle for the Bavarian automaker. One in three BMWs sold worldwide these days carries an X badge, and BMW clearly expects the X3 to soon supplant the X5 as the company’s most popular SUV, having announced plans to augment production out of Spartanburg, South Carolina, with new X3 assembly lines in South Africa and China opening in 2018. The new X3 is slightly larger and roomier than its predecessor, as you’d perhaps expect, but more importantly, it feels a more mature vehicle to drive, quieter and more composed on the road, and laden with BMW’s latest technology. You can tell this is a product that’s now core to the BMW brand.

The first of the new X3s will arrive in U.S. BMW dealers next month. Two models will initially be available—the $43,445 X3 xDrive 30i, powered by the 248-hp/258-lb-ft turbocharged I-4 and the $55,295 X3 M40i, the first ever M Performance X3 variant, with a 355-hp/369-lb-ft version of the 3.0-liter turbocharged I-6 under the hood and a bunch of sport-oriented mechanical components and appearance items. The X3 xDrive 30d, powered by the 3.0-liter I-6 turbodiesel with 261 hp and a hulking 457 lb-ft of torque from 2,000 to 2,500 rpm, will join the lineup in 2018.

The new X3 rolls on BMW’s new and highly flexible KLAR architecture, which also underpins the new 5 and 7 Series models. Compared with the previous X3, it’s about 2 inches longer overall and about a half-inch wider. More importantly, the wheelbase has been increased by 2.2 inches, which means a welcome increase in rear-seat legroom. The exterior design is an evolution of the previous X3’s, though it articulated the current BMW house style, with fuller surfaces and softer lines. It not only looks more sophisticated than the old X3, especially riding on 19- or 20-inch wheels, but also boasts an impressive drag coefficient of just 0.29.
The old X3’s interior looked cheap and felt it. By contrast, the new X3’s cabin is plush and premium, with a richer mix of colors and materials, plus digital dash hardware and switchgear that’s clearly been trickled down from the more expensive 7 and 5 Series. The dash is dominated by a 10.0-inch infotainment display screen that BMW claims is the largest in the segment and can be controlled—depending on which options you choose—up to four different ways via touch, gesture, voice, or the good old fashioned iDrive controller. With the rear seats up, cargo capacity is 28.7 cubic feet. The seats can be folded flat via levers just inside the rear hatch to increase that to 62.7 cubic feet.

We tried the diesel-powered xDrive 30d on a network of mildly rocky trails through the Sintra hills, just north of Lisbon, Portugal, and came away impressed with the diesel engine’s easy drivability—and the surprisingly compliant and controlled ride in the rough stuff, especially as it was fitted with the optional 20-inch wheels and sporty 245/45 front and 275/40 rear tires set to standard street pressures. BMW’s X models are generally regarded as soft-roaders, but the new X3 boasts 8 inches of ground clearance, excellent Hill Descent Control, 25 and 22 degree approach and departure angles, and can wade through water almost 20-inches deep, so you can genuinely take it farther off-road than you think.


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