BMW X3 4x4 performance
We have yet to try the 2.0-litre petrol badged 20i, but it’s the 187bhp 2.0-litre 20d diesel that’s likely to be the best seller and is also our pick of the range. It offers strong performance whether you’re negotiating suburbia or the M1, as well as enough poke to help you overtake on a B-road. In fact, it’s way punchier than the rather lacklustre Land Rover Discovery Sport 2.0 TD4 180, even if it’s not quite a match for the Audi Q5 2.0 TDI 190.
The 261bhp 3.0-litre straight-six diesel model (30d) is faster, making it an even more relaxing car to cover ground in. It’s so fast that it’s barely any slower in the real world than the range-topping petrol M40i and makes way more financial sense.
Speaking of which, the M40i is awesome if performance is your thing. Its truly breathtaking pace comes courtesy of the 335bhp 3.0-litre turbocharged straight six lurking under the bonnet, giving it the capability to crack 0-62mph in just 4.8sec and reach (a limited) 155mph. It's flexible, too, with the turbocharger helping to bring a wide band of pull that begins from low revs.
Whatever X3 you choose, the standard eight-speed automatic gearbox responds quickly and ensures you’re never left floundering.
BMW X3 4x4 ride
There are various suspension set-ups for the X3. Passive, non-adjustable steel springs are standard; these are stiffer on M Sport cars. Whichever trim you choose, you can add adjustable dampers for an extra fee.
With the optional adaptive set-up in Comfort mode, the X3 rides pretty well most of the time. In town, it copes with most lumps and bumps ably and remains generally calm at faster speeds – except over dimpled sections of road, where it tends to fidget. Still, it’s calmer than the Discovery Sport; but for anyone looking for the ultimate smooth ride, a Q5 on optional air suspension is our pick. The M40i gets lowered adaptive suspension as an option that gives the car a slightly firmer edge, but it’s still more comfortable than the standard M Sport suspension.
We’re waiting to try cars on standard suspension; if anything, they’ll be firmer still.
BMW X3 4x4 handling
The range-topping M40i has that letter at the beginning of its name because it has been fettled by BMW’s motorsport division. Its bespoke suspension set-up makes it very nearly the best-handling large SUV on the market. The best remains the Porsche Macan, but not by much.
The main reason for the Macan edging the M40i is its more communicative steering – in all other respects, the X3 has the Macan matched. In fact, whichever X3 you choose, the standard rear-biased four-wheel drive system ensures massive traction when it’s needed but playfulness when you want it.
Having tried cars on adaptive suspension, we can report that, firmed up to Sport or Sport+ modes, it keeps the X3’s bulky body nicely in check through tight bends, but there’s not as much exploitable grip as you get from a Q5.
BMW X3 4x4 refinement
Although the 20d isn’t the smoothest four-cylinder engine in the class – for that, you’ll want the Q5's 2.0 TDI 190 – it’s better than the grumbly diesel units in the Discovery Sport. The 30d is extremely well behaved for a diesel, though, remaining decently smooth even under heavy acceleration and sending next to no vibration back through the X3’s controls. Wind noise is very well suppressed, too, almost matching the serenity of the Q5 at 70mph.
The sporty M40i can play the role of a raucous performance SUV or, if you need it to, a relaxing cruiser with just a switch of driving mode. In Sport, the exhaust bellows, pops and cracks, yet it is almost silent on the motorway in Comfort. The only slight issue is that its large tyres kick up more road noise on coarse surfaces.