BMW X3 M-Sport: smoother, faster and more efficient
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When we think of BMW, the ethos of The Ultimate Driving Machine rings clearly in our minds.
Unfortunately, the X3, being a SAV (sports activity vehicle, BMW’s term for what is essentially a crossover SUV), means performance is already slightly stunted.
Nevertheless, you don’t exactly expect to carving corners and attacking apexes on-track in a lifted vehicle, right?
Built atop BMW’s new modular CLAR platform, which it chiefly shares with the latest BMW 5 Series, the new X3 is lighter than its predecessor, with some variants by as much as 55 kg.
Power comes from BMW’s B47D20 2.0-liter diesel twin power turbo CRDi engine, delivering 190 ps and 400 Newton meters of torque.
Power is delivered to all four wheels via BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system in conjunction with the now ubiquitous ZF 8-speed automatic transmission.
The inside is very pleasant, although the interior’s biggest problem really is with the BMW X1.
Apparently, both share the same space, but the X3 costs at least P900,000, with the M Sport variant having an additional P200,000 worth of extras such as the nicer interior with blue stitching, the M-badged door sills, and the larger 19-inch alloy wheels and all-season 245/50R19 tires.
So, why spend more for the same? Since the X3 is more upmarket, it is more luxurious since BMW truly went all-out sprucing up the interior.
Besides, X1 or not, the X3 is still a roomy vehicle, with loads of space up front and in the back for four full-sized adults on a very long drive.
It truly shines on long stints when behind the wheel, perfect for say, a drive up to Sagada or Pagudpud, or down south to Bicol where the long drive will be refreshing and decently engaging.
Seating position is also excellent, another strong point from a company that understands the sheer pleasure one gets from driving a finely-honed vehicle.
Seats adjust electronically 16 ways, and the steering wheel also adjusts for both reach and rake.
The only complaint I have about the interior, and the X3 as a whole, is the foot well area beside the throttle pedal: the transmission tunnel seems bigger than previous models, which intrudes onto my size 11 EEE feet, making stop and go driving a bit cumbersome as I have to keep switching my right foot from throttle to brake, then back again.
But the glasshouse is bigger, you see more of the outside, and this just adds to the illusion of space and luxury inside.
You also get a 12.5-inch display for the latest Version 6.0 iDrive, which through the years has become a tad more easier and intuitive to use.
The longer wheelbase does give the X3 more high-speed stability. And it has amazing grace on winding roads, even if feel is slightly numb.
Composure in dynamic driving conditions, particularly quick left-right transitions (such as overtaking on tight, winding roads), is still a BMW strong point in the X3, but truthfully it lacks the delicacy of older BMW models, SAV or not.
On my weekly drive down south to Tagaytay, the X3’s effortless grunt made the night run free and easy.
The missus fell asleep easily, though she did find the suspension a tad firm compared to the air-sprung Porsche Macan Sport we had previously.
But there’s enough compliance to absorb all the uneven ruts and bumps on SLEX as it was undergoing rehabilitation and resurfacing that night we passed through.
On the winding roads from Santa Rosa to Tagaytay, the X3 just lapped up the miles with ease. And that’s another thing about the X3: the engine is so smooth.
Maybe it was late already, but sometimes I’d forget it was a diesel rather than a gasoline engine.
If I wasn’t paying attention, speed would slowly creep up to 120-130 km/h, as the X3 likes to cruise at truly elevated Autobahn speeds, which is too fast for our modest highways.
I picked up a highly impressive 17 km/liter on our night drive going up, and close to 20 km/liter on the way down that Sunday evening, although admittedly, we were blessed with minimal traffic.
As I returned the X3, the fuel gauge had barely moved, an indication that it was super fuel efficient considering I had done over 220 kilometers in the four days I had it.
Of course, the X3 is as safe as can be: six airbags as standard, with ABS-EBD, cornering brake control, and emergency brake assist plus traction/stability control.
The M badge might leave you hankering for a bit more driving involvement, but that aside, the X3 M Sport in xDrive20D guise is worth considering, especially if you do a lot of long highway drives over varied road conditions, put a premium on comfort and refinement over driving feel and involvement, and want the convenience of an SUV, but without the bulk of a full-sized one.