BMW X3 xDrive20d SE (2011) review

Published:06 January 2011

BMW X3 xDrive20d SE (2011) review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

BMW’s X3 has long been the runt of the Munich litter. The last X3 was seemingly made of less sturdy stuff than other BM models and didn’t drive as sharply either. But it hopes to reverse all that with the new F25-codename X3.

It still looks like a shrunken X5, but you’re less likely to confuse the two now thanks to peculiarly squared-off headlamps and a strong character line scalloped in the side flanks. This one’s built alongside BMW’s big seven-seater SUV at the Spartanburg factory in the USA, not the Magna facility in Graz, Austria. Bodes well for a jump in quality to match the tight-fit we expect from BM.

BMW X3 xDrive20d: the first drive review

We’ve just driven the likely best seller, the X3 xDrive20d, expected to hog 80% of UK sales. On paper, it seems all the X3 you’ll ever need. Its 2.0-litre aluminium four-cylinder achieves 181bhp and 280lb ft from 1750-2750rpm.

The figures speak for themselves: the 2.0d will scuttle to 62mph in 8.5sec and on to 130mph on the autobahn. But the rather more important figures of 147g/km and 50.4mpg are achieved thanks to standard stop-start and a new, leggy eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox.

The X3 is priced from £30,490, which is rather remarkably cheaper than the last X3. Further reason why the 2.0d is going to be popular in Britain: it comes with leather upholstery and twin-zone climate control as standard.

So is the X3 2.0d up to the job?

We tested a remarkably boggo xDrive20d with a six-speed manual 'box. Two testers found the lever positioned too far back and it's neither a quick nor a slick change. On balance, we'd recommend picking that eight-speed auto, which also knocks a couple of digits off the carbon emissions.

Performance is brisk enough, but you have to rev the 2.0 D to match those performance claims, and we found the engine a tad loud.

Our car was fitted with winter tyres and we drove it in the snows of Christmas. Traction was peerless, as you’d expect, and the fully electric power steering is as meaty as you'd expect from a BMW SUV. This is a very competent 4x4.

Is the new BMW X3 practical?

Family-spirited owners will enjoy decent practicality in the new X3. The boot is 550 litres with the rear seats in place, swelling to 1600 with them folded flat. It’s an easy boot to access and there’s plenty of room front and rear. As there should be - the new X3 is 80mm longer than before.

There’s plenty of optional equipment to spec your X3 just so. A 6.5in digital monitor is standard, but you can spec that up to 8.8in if you upgrade to the fancier sat-nav. Our car came with the smaller screen – rare for a press demonstrator – and proved that even more boggo X3s feel well up to scratch. One other road tester in the office found the 3-series-alike dashboard a bit too cheap, mind you.

A panoramic 360deg parking camera is available to help ease parking, while you can order three individual rear seats each of which stows independently, head-up displays (highly recommended) and online connectivity.

Verdict

The X3 does the job you'd expect. While we're not sure about the looks and drove it mostly in severe winter weather, we still found a very practical, well equipped and comfortable mid-sized SUV.

It might be strangely lacking in some key BMW attributes, but we've a sneaking suspicion they might be resolved in other variants.

Specs

Price when new: £30,490
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 1995cc four-cylinder TD, 181bhp @ 4000rpm, 280lb ft @ 1750rpm
Transmission: Four-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Performance: 131mph, 8.5sec 0-62mph, 50.4mpg, 149g/km
Weight / material: 1790kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4648/1881/1661

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  • BMW X3 xDrive20d SE (2011) review
  • BMW X3 xDrive20d SE (2011) review
  • BMW X3 xDrive20d SE (2011) review
  • BMW X3 xDrive20d SE (2011) review
  • BMW X3 xDrive20d SE (2011) review
  • BMW X3 xDrive20d SE (2011) review
  • BMW X3 xDrive20d SE (2011) review

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

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