By: Khulekani Dumisa and Rebaneilwe Semakane
Production of the X3 started in April 2018 and for its production, BMW has reportedly invested over R6 billion to improve the Rosslyn plant so it can be able to assemble the new X3. The plant can now produce 76,000 units a year. In 2015, while they still were making the 3 series, BMW produced a record breaking 71,353 units. Although the production of the 3 Series will be missed, the X3 investment has created a number of job opportunities and training programmes for employees and graduates. The BMW Group in South Africa directly and indirectly employs over 40,000 people in various departments.
With the above in mind, when we got the invitation to attend the BMW X3 Xplore tour, there was no way we would decline. As we know this vehicle is locally produced, making it extra special to those who buy it. We therefore grabbed the opportunity with both hands and embarked on a highly enlightening three-day journey with the X3.
The tour started at Auto Bavaria in Midrand, where we met up with fellow motoring journalists and enthusiasts. Our hosts did a short presentation which included handing over a camouflaged X3 to an organisation that focuses on the prevention of rhino poaching. After the brief presentation, we wasted no time and got into the cars with our designated driving partners to do an off-road course at the X Lifestyle Park near Mall of Africa. This especially designed off-road course will be open to the general public in November 2018. The course was a little challenging but the X3 handled it with ease. The x-Drive made all the difference and convinced everyone that the off-road is where it belongs.
After this course, we headed to BMW’s Rosslyn Plant in Pretoria. We were taken on a tour of the plant, learning exactly what goes in to building the X3. The plant facilities are state-of-the-art and everything works together like a well-oiled machine. We got to see the rich history of the plant, such as the production of various BMW’s, dating back to the 1970’s.
When the tour ended we proceeded to have lunch at the plant, allowing us to get ready for the second part of the day which was spent at the Bio2Watt plant.
This is the closest one will probably get to an assembly line as many others do not allow phones and cameras in these areas. Thankful to @BMW_SA for a behind the scenes sneak peek of how one of their popular SUVs is assembled. @_RebaS #BMWX3xPlore pic.twitter.com/ffRos8aG3S
— Khulekani on Wheels (@khuleonwheels) August 30, 2018
The drive to Bio2Watt plant in Bronkhorstspruit is about 40-50minutes from Pretoria. We had a chance to really test the car out. It has such a smooth gearbox and the drive is calm and enjoyable. The BMW X3 has such innovative features; the infotainment system is so easy to navigate around.
This stop is @BMW_SA’s Bio2Watt Plant which uses biological waste and converts into electricity. This provides for about 30% of BMW’s electricity needs at their Rosslyn Plant.👌🏾 @_RebaS #BMWX3xPlore #RenewableEnergy pic.twitter.com/PDRhRPyxoS
— Khulekani on Wheels (@khuleonwheels) August 30, 2018
We arrived at Bio2Watt at 15h00pm. The plant uses waste products, be it in liquid or solid form to generate energy. The process is said to take about 40 days, where all unnecessary waste is sifted out, and only what is required is used. The plant supplies 30% of BMW’s plant energy requirements.
At 4:30 pm we left the plant for Irene Country Lodge, located in Centurion. We then rested for a bit, had dinner and retreated to our rooms for the night, as we were to go on a long journey early Friday morning.
We woke up to a scrumptious breakfast at Irene Guest Lodge for a drive just over 400km.. We were on the road by 7:30 am and our chariot for the day was the X3 20d. The drive was split into four parts. First up was the drive from Pretoria to Dullstroom. The drive was spilt between highway driving and some gravel road driving. The car handled both well. My co-driver pushed the car to its absolute limits on the gravel road but the car remained unshaken and handled itself very well and in no time we were in Dullstroom.
The small town of Dullstroom is beautiful. We spent some time at the town’s famous Belgian waffle shop, Waffle & Co. The waffles were very delicious and they made me wish I could stay longer. Next up was Sabie, via the R37. The X3 had the task of tackling some serious twisties along the way. The X3 surprised me and excelled. The twisties and the X3 20d’s great performance was the main subject during our lunch break the African Elephant in Sabie.
Before we knew it, we were on the road again. The next stop was Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve where we experienced the scenic Three Rondavels. This experience was breath taking.
The final stretch was to our accommodation for the night in the beautiful province of Limpopo. As earlier in the day, we went through both tarred and gravel road before we got to the charming Makalali Private Game Lodge which is located west of the Kruger National Park over 26,000 hectares of land with the Big 5.
Unfortunately, luck was not on our side and we only spotted one out of the big 5, i.e. the rhino. Being in Africa, we were not short of other game to spot and we saw giraffe, zebra, impala and warthogs.
At Makalali, we were treated to a dinner under the skies around a boma fire. Strangely, the entertainment included Zulu dancing. The cultural touch was welcomed nonetheless. We then retired to our generous and luxurious rooms which seemed fit for royalty. The rooms had generous bathrooms, including an outside shower.
We got up early and we were at breakfast by 6:30 am. As with the delicious dinner offered at Makalali, breakfast did not disappoint and was equally delicious.
On day 3, we drove past Tzaneen and through the scenic Magoebaskloof Pass. We had a brief coffee stopover at the lovely Lekwar Restaurant. I wished we could have spent more time at this restaurant that is famous for eisbein, lamb, bunny chow, trout and biltong alfredo.
We were back on the road within a short space of time. We drove past the headquarters of the Zion Christian Church in Moria outside of Polokwane. The divinity surrounding the area is palatable and demonstrated through the number of congregants we saw near the holy mountain. We then drove past Polokwane through to the world famous Legends Golf & Safari where we enjoyed a refreshing buffet lunch.
Luck was on our side as colleagues agreed to lend us the only X3 30i in the trip. This made the drive back to Johannesburg much more fun. The 30i has a sweet exhaust note and is quick. It sliced through traffic on the N1 and we were back in Johannesburg in no time, bringing us to the end of an epic trip.
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