I'm stumped - what's new?
You're not the only one - apparently this is the revised BMW X3. Although if you can spot all the differences between the pre- and post-facelift cars you really should get out more or consider a job at BMW. According to just such people the front lights are new - incorporating different 'halo' bulbs behind a Perspex cover - along with body-coloured front and rear bumpers. The rear lights are tweaked too, with new LEDs replacing conventional bulbs. Along with new alloy wheel designs, it's a predictable mid-life tidy-up for the X3. Inside the materials have been upgraded (they needed to be) with higher-quality soft touch plastics and a three-spoke steering wheel. It feels far nicer, good job considering the X3's considerable price tag. More exciting are the changes made underneath, changes that make the new X3 truly startling.
Sounds exciting - go on…
The new X3 debuts BMW’s latest efforts to take over the diesel world. Beneath the X3’s snout is an all-new six-cylinder common-rail engine featuring BMW's new VTT (Variable Twin Turbo) system. It uses two turbochargers - one small device for low in the rev range and one much larger turbo for the top end. Combined they aim to negate turbo lag and offer more linear power delivery. The result is 286bhp and a thumping 428lb ft of torque. As with the old car 2.0-litre and 3.0-litre diesel engines are joined by 2.0, 2.5 and 3.0-litre petrol units all in mildly tweaked form.
So the big news is the new diesel… what's it like?
Astonishing. The pull is enormous from no revs and simply never lets up - this, remember, in a car weighing just a smidge under two tonnes. Want proof? The new X3 3.0SD will crack 62mph in only 6.6secs before nudging 145mph all while returning a modest 32.5mpg. As we've come to expect from big capacity BMW diesel engines it's super-refined too and actually sounds quite cool as it revs cleanly to the redline. Engines like this that makes it difficult to justify opting for a petrol engine – it's rapid, sounds good and has acceptable fuel economy. The new six-speed automatic transmission is also well suited to the 3.0-litre SD engine, kicking down enthusiastically while still shifting smoothly on motorways.
Is the ride still obscenely harsh?
As with the old X3 the ride is teeth-rattlingly firm – too firm for British roads. It does however allow the SUV to maintain ridiculous pace on twisty B-roads. Off roading is a bumpy adventure but the X3 is still capable of ascending serious inclines. And thanks to hill descent control, the X3 can even get down them in a sedate manner too. The complicated X-Drive four wheel drive system has been tweaked to make it more responsive when the going gets slippery and the DSC has been refined to make it less intrusive. Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) makes its first appearance on a four-wheel drive BMW. The system allows the X3 to make a controlled drift through corners, and allows the car to maintain higher speeds along quick roads.
The revisions - particularly the new diesel engine - are an effective boost for the ugly and unloved X3. Its iffy quality has been improved, although the steep asking price remains. The X3 is indecently fast given its off-roader credentials, practical and pretty quiet. But you'd have to really want four-wheel drive to pick it over the fantastically accomplished 5-Series Touring.