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By Miles Downard
BMW recently commenced production of the X3 model right here in sunny South Africa, having pumped a good few Rands into its Rosslyn plant to convert from churning out 3 Series in favour of its SUV cousin.
So this is it, the first of the X3s off the line out of Pretoria. This one with a juicy 3 litre turbo diesel motor, aptly badged a 30d.
That motor is first to mind when thinking of the stand out features of the X3 we had on test. It’s a peach, punchy and frugal all at the same time. It produces 195kW and a good part of all the torque in the world (or 620Nm to be specific) which propels the 1.9 ton lump from 0-100km/h in just 5.8 seconds. That’ll embarrass things that say “GTi” on the back and return a solid 8-9 litres per hundred in the process. Drive more civilly and that drops into the 7s.
The X3 is quite a large vehicle, so large in fact that it’s bigger than the very first X5. So the inside is vast, capable of swallowing a whole family and luggage with ease. With the optional M Sport package it’s fairly well appointed too; M Sport trinkets, navigation, bluetooth, rain sensing wipers, auto headlights and park distance control all standard. All of this packaged in a typically BMW design, which looks imposing and smart, even if the ever-larger bonnet grill is edging on garish.
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Honestly there isn’t a huge amount to dislike here. But I personally find the steering a bit heavy and it isn’t responsive enough, which makes an already heavy car feel even heavier. And I still struggle to get to grips with the iDrive infotainment system which appears both overly complex and inconsistent in its operation.
With the M Sport package ticked the BMW X3 30d is around R 955,000 depending on what other bits and bobs you might like to spec. That’s around the same money as an equivalent Mercedes GLC 350d with an AMG package. Audi don’t offer a big diesel Q5, nor do Alfa Romeo in its Stelvio range and there’s nothing from Lexus. Similar money would get you a fairly base model Land Rover Discovery or a top of the line Discovery Sport, however.
So it’s a mixed bag on the pricing front, with little direct competition and some roundabout. What’s hard to argue is a big petrol powered SUV, which will struggle to offer this level of performance and economy, provided you’re still diesel friendly of course.
South Africa’s very own X3 30d is quite a neat package and one with compelling arguments in its favour. Whether one really needs all that oomph is the ultimate question however, as there is a much wider selection of lesser diesels should speed and status not be the driving force behind your purchase.
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