The BMW X3 sDrive18d is a new rear-wheel-drive version of the company's popular SUV.
It offers the same space, practicality and immaculate build quality as its four-wheel-drive xDrive cousin, yet costs almost £3000 less to buy.
The sDrive uses a detuned version of the xDrive's engine, which loses 40bhp, but adds 5mph to the car's top speed.
What's the 2013 BMW X3 sDrive18d like to drive?
If you're at all concerned about driving in slippery conditions, then the rear-wheel-drive X3 won't be for you.
Electronic anti-slip systems have come a long way, but there's still no substitute for having the weight of the engine over the driven wheels to maximise traction.
However, the sDrive is great to drive on grippier surfaces, thanks to its balanced handling and excellent stability.
It steers with fantastic precision, too, making it easy to place accurately on the road.
Add this to its limited body roll and you can easily find yourself travelling down country lanes far quicker than you'd imagine possible in such a large SUV.
The X3's composed high-speed ride is another of its strengths, but it can feel a little stiff around town, where it thuds over imperfections such as drain covers and potholes.
The engine sounds a little gruff at tickover, too, and it's not particularly cultured under hard acceleration.
However, it's the offset clutch pedal and notchy manual gearshift that will irritate you the most, turning rush-hour commutes into tiresome affairs.
What's the 2013 BMW X3 sDrive18d like inside?
There are no signs of cost cutting inside the X3.
Leather seats are standard, while dense plastics and BMW's intuitive iDrive infotainment system help the X3 ooze sophistication and quality.
It's a decent family car, too, with plenty of room in the front and back, although a pronounced central transmission tunnel means the rear centre seat isn't particularly comfortable.
At least it's easy to just fling everything in the boot and head for the hills, thanks to the 460 litres of load space.
Dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers and cruise control are all standard.
Should I buy one?
Officially, the X3 sDrive18d should average 55.4mpg, and while our True MPG tests suggest that 41.5mpg is more likely in real-world driving, that's not bad for a big SUV.
Still, we can't help feeling you're better off with its four-wheel-drive cousin. It sits two company car tax bands higher and adds £2905 to your invoice, but you get the reassurance of four-wheel-drive and a significant performance boost, while economy is still impressive.
We'd also recommend the optional £1528 eight-speed automatic gearbox. It's far slicker than the clunky six speed manual and has no impact on fuel economy or CO2 output.
You can read how the two-wheel-drive X3 compares with equivalent versions of the Land Rover Freelander and Volvo XC60 in the April edition of What Car? magazine.
What Car? says…
Land Rover Freelander
Our reviews are based on hard data and thorough testing in the real world.
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