What is it?
The BMW X3 is one of our favourite 4x4s: this is our first chance to sample new M Sport trim.
In traditional BMW fashion, the M Sport has a range of cosmetic changes over SE models, including a deeper front spoiler, beefier sills and 18-inch alloy wheels. There are interior upgrades and different suspension settings, too.
Whats it like to drive?
The 30d version we drove has a 3.0-litre turbodiesel that pack a serious punch. With 255bhp and a mighty 413lb ft of torque, it feels fast and responsive no matter how many revs are on the dial.
Its impressively smooth, as is the standard eight-speed automatic gearbox its mated to. If anything the engines efficiency is even more impressive than its muscle. It returns 47.1mpg and emits just 159g/km of CO2, making it better on both counts than an Audi Q5 2.0 TDI, let alone the 3.0-litre.
Ordinarily, the extra 2375 you pay for M Sport trim also earns you firmer suspension settings, to give sportier handling to match the looks. However, this part of the package is deleted if you specify the 930 optional Variable Damper Control that our test car had.
VDC adjusts the firmness of the suspension according to your driving style, the condition of the road and whether youve selected Normal or Sport mode. It really works, too. Normal gives a slick ride and sharp body control, while Sport makes the X3 handle better than any 4x4 has a right to. It doesnt make life uncomfortable, either.
Whats it like inside?
The sporty theme continues inside, where deeply bolstered sports seats and a darker headlining are the key upgrades to the SEs interior. As with any X3, the build quality and materials are top-notch.
Dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors and automatic headlights and wipers also come as standard.
The cabin is also practical: theres plenty of space for four six-footers, although the transmission tunnel gets in the way of a central rear passengers feet. The 550-litre boot is well shaped, and expands to 1600-litres when the 40/20/40 backrest is folded - the extended boot floor isnt quite flat though.
Should I buy one?
If youre in the market for a 5-seater 4x4, theres none better than the X3. The question is, SE or M Sport? If you specify your M Sport with VDC, youre effectively paying thousands for just a few styling tweaks thats ridiculous. Also, until weve driven the M Sport on its standard suspension, we cant say whether its worth recommending over the cheaper SE.
What Car? says
Read the BMW X3 review for parents at Mumsnet Cars