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Driven: BMW's next-gen X3 SUV in SA

2017-11-22 14:56

Image: Supplied

Sean Parker

BMW's next-gen X3 made its local debut this week, Sean Parker made the short trip to George and got behind the wheel of the xDrive30d model. 

Knysna - The appearance of BMW South Africa CEO Tim Abbot at this week's local X3 launch illustrated the importance of the introduction of the mid-size SUV.

For Abbot, the new X3 is a huge achievement because from April 2018 it will replace the 3 Series sedan (moving to Mexico) on the production line at its Rosslyn plant in Pretoria.

The new SUV will be sold in South Africa and exported to Europe. 

Landing a contract to build a new model comes around once every 20 years or so, this means a lot and they've already pumped R3-billion into the plant to enable the facility to produce the X3. 

The British-born CEO said it's clear that SUVs around the world are the number one driver of increased sales for many automakers and building them in the Mzansi means they'll be kept busy because of demand. 

Plush ride a standout quality

The versions I drove in Knynsa and George this week were built at Spartanburg, South Carolina. The pick of the range for now is the 30d model, which has 195kW and 620Nm of torque from as low down as 2000r/min. And yes, it has 50:50 weight distribution. All models use the superb ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic gearbox which performed well on route. 

The six-cylinder in-line diesel is a peach of an engine with supreme mid-range grunt that really suits the SUV's nature. 0-100km/h is claimed 5.8 seconds and top speed is 240km/h, the automaker claims 6.0-litres/100km but I averaged around 7.8-litres/100km which was excellent considering my heavy right foot.  

What's it like to drive? 

On road it felt composed and rapid on the 250km test route from George via Outeniqua pass and to Knysna. The Bridgestone Alenza (an on- and off-road tyre) felt decent on the black stuff, aiding a plush ride when in comfort mode. Steering feel is good and grip is immense. 

Gallery: 2017 BMW X3 

And when it was time to cruise around, the SUV handled it with aplomb. It's safe to say the X3 will spend most of its time in the city and it passed that test with flying colours. 

On the off-road bits, mainly gravel roads with a few ruts, the tyre didn't cope as well and suffered from understeer. The point here is, if you spend 90% of the time driving in suburban areas, fit a road-based tyre. The SUV boasts 204mm of ground clearance which is more than enough to handle the odd middle-mannetjie.  

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Inside, you'll find familiar architecture to that of the 7 Series and 5 Series models. On a practical level, the rear seats are available in a standard 40:20:40 split/folding configuration. The boot has a claimed capacity of 550 litres and swells to 1600 litres with the back seats down. 

BMW has filtered its optional 'display key' familiar from the 7 Series and 5 Series down to the new X3 too. The cabin exudes solidity and the workmanship on the new model cannot be disregarded. 

BMW's infotainment command system iDrive controller is now standard on the X3, if you specify the navigation system professional it adds an easy to use touchscreen and gesture control. 

For more technical aspects of the X3, click here

After spending extensive time in the high-powered diesel model it's clear that the blend of performance and economy makes this model a very good pick. And with the X3 benefitting from the latest technologies seen in the 5 and 7 Series, well-heeled families will be well catered for. 

Mr Abbot can be proud of what the X3 is like to drive and it's satisfying to know these cars in the near future will be made right here in South Africa. 

The rest of the range

The line-up from launch consists of the xDrive20d with four-cylinder diesel engine, the xDrive30d with a straight-six diesel unit, the xDrive30i with four-cylinder petrol engine and the range-topping petrol model, the M40i.

These will soon be followed by the BMW X3 xDrive 20i engine variant, which will be available in both rear-wheel-drive (sDrive) and all-wheel-drive (xDrive) versions. 

Packages in the form of xLine, Luxury Line and the popular M Sport package can be fitted. View the package and options list here. 

The new X3 features tech and new drivetrains used 

Prices

Standard Model

8-speed Automatic Transmition 
X3 xDrive 20d - R683 200
X3 xDrive 30i - R739 800
x3 xDrive 30d - R868 300

8-speed Sports Automatic Transmission Steptronic
X3 xDrive 30i - R742 800
x3 xDrive 30d - R871 300
x3 M40i - R991 100

xLine

8-speed Automatic Transmition Steptronic
X3 xDrive 20d - R716 400
X3 xDrive 30i - R772 000
x3 xDrive 30d - R892 900

8-speed Sports Automatic Transmission Steptronic
X3 xDrive 30i - R775 000
x3 xDrive 30d - R895 900

Luxury Line

8-speed Automatic Transmition Steptronic
X3 xDrive 20d - R722 300
X3 xDrive 30i - R777 900
x3 xDrive 30d - R892 900

8-speed Sports Automatic Transmission Steptronic
X3 xDrive 30i - R780 900
x3 xDrive 30d - R895 900

M Sport Package

8-speed Automatic Transmition Steptronic
X3 xDrive 20d - R735 300
X3 xDrive 30i - R798 100
x3 xDrive 30d - R918 100

8-speed Sports Automatic Transmission Steptronic
X3 xDrive 30i - R801 100
x3 xDrive 30d - R921 100

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