By Sala Masindane and Clive Funizwe
Continuous improvement and evolution of products can sometimes end up being so good that it may up cause a stir within the wrong circles and those are the internal circles within the BMW stable. The latest X3 can easily be mistaken by many for being an X5, especially in its stature. This means that buyers looking for a luxury SUV will find themselves wondering if they need the extra space that the X5 offers. As we all know in this space and segment, buyers seek elevated prestige and exclusivity. So how far up the ranks does the new X3 stir things up?
As luxury is defined by space and comfort, we are off to a very good start. The X3 is not short on space by any measure and the materials that wrap around the cabin are of high quality. The alluminium buttons feel reassuringly tactile, the soft leather seats are comfortable, comprehensively supportive and adjustable like the steering is with its electronic rake and reach adjustments – that ensure the most precise seating position. The panoramic roof adds to the ambiance of the cabin and adds to journey enjoyment during the night or rainy days. Rear passengers also enjoy some comforts of the reclining rear seats and rear vents. Moving further to the back, the rear seats fold forward via push buttons and extends the boot space load to 1600 litres. Sliding items in and out is also a breeze. The parcel shelf has a hideaway compartment, a flat load bay and there is no load lip so items can be easily pushed over as you swallow up a load enough for two couples. And yes – the tailgate is automatic on all X3 models.
Stepping into the driver’s seat, things get very BMW-ish. Which is a very good thing. The vehicle offers a very engaging drive that remains comfortable. The steering is precise and has ample feedback. Power is immediately available from the 2.0 litre turbo charged petrol engine that churns out 185kW of power and 350Nm of torque which is mated to the class leading eight-speed Steptronic transmission. If you remain gentle with the throttle, fuel consumption remains relatively good. We managed a good return of 8.0l/km
Looks are always a subjective thing but we think that the new design language of the massive kidney grills takes some getting used – but do grow on you as you get accustomed to the car. But overall, the aesthetics have a fair balance of a masculinity and class. Is there anything we didn’t like? At this price range, we would have liked to see the doors extend all the way to cover the sills as this ensures you do not accidentally rub off dirt on your trousers/pants you may have driven over. There is no seatbelt adjustments and Android auto is also not supported.
Overall, the car is a step up from the previous generation particularly where refinement and build quality are concerned. The new X3 is a serious contender in its segment, one that will worry the competition and even get buyers thinking whether they really need an X5. It may be not as big as the X5, but its practicality makes it a great SUV for medium to large families.
This X3 model is priced from R769,800 and you get BMW’s 5 Year/100,000km Motorplan maintenance contract.
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