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The BMW X3 is now in its third generation and, so far, we've only driven its latest effort in 2.0-litre diesel form on UK roads. Now, we've had a chance to drive its six-cylinder diesel sibling, the xDrive30d, to decide whether it should be our pick of the X3 range.
It comes with a punchy 261bhp 3.0-litre diesel engine, but more impressive is its stout 457lb ft of torque (or low-down pull), which brings better flexibility by allowing the X3 to haul itself up to speed in gear far more easily. BMW also claims official fuel economy of 48.7mpg – not at all bad given this X3 will get from standstill to 62mph in just 5.8sec.
But does the 30d's hot hatch pace make it a better SUV and our favourite version, or do six-cylinder diesel-equipped rivals such as the Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLC make more sense?
2017 BMW X3 xDrive 30d on the road
We've driven the 20d diesel in the UK and the range-topping M40i X3 abroad, and this 30d diesel sits somewhere between the two in terms of performance. The 30d's pace and shove at low revs is certainly noticeable over the 20d; it effortlessly wafts up to the legal limit and doesn't need to be worked as hard to overtake slower-moving traffic.
Overall, it's a nicely hushed engine to live with. It's a big grumbly when cold at idle and there's some slight chatter through the steering wheel (an Audi Q5 is better), but at a cruise this six-cylinder is both quiet and smooth. That goes for the standard eight-speed automatic gearbox, too; it doesn't dither when pulling away and flicks between gears smoothly and intelligently.
And this larger diesel engine hasn't ruined the way the X3 handles – it remains one of the most agile large SUVs out there, certainly more so than a GLC or Land Rover Discovery Sport. Its standard variable steering changes speed depending on how fast you're driving but, importantly, it makes parking easier and is precise when it matters – on a winding country road. Our car's sporty standard non-adaptive M Sport suspension also ensured there wasn't too much lean through fast corners, while the fact that every X3 gets all-wheel drive ensures excellent all-weather grip.
But the downside to that last point is a firm ride. Having tried X3s on non-M Sport adaptive dampers (£460), we'd recommend spending the extra to avoid a stiff ride at low speeds that jostles occupants about – something made worse by our car's optional (£720) 20in alloy wheels. At least our car remained better-composed at higher speeds on the motorway.
2017 BMW X3 xDrive30d interior
Not surprisingly, the 30d's interior is the same as other X3s'. For our full take on how the X3's interior stacks up versus its rivals', read our full BMW X3 review.
In short, it's one of the roomiest large SUVs around, with anough space for four adults to sit in comfort, although three adults across the rear seats will have slightly more shoulder room in a Q5 or Discovery Sport. It's also a shame that BMW doesn't offer a sliding rear bench, even as an option.
The boot is a very generous size and a practical shape, while its interior quality is some of the best around. BMW's largest 10.2in screen iDrive infotainment system (standard on M Sport cars) is also one of the best systems on sale anywhere.
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