BMW will introduce an all-new X3 this winter, replacing a model criticised since launch for its boxy looks, below-par quality and lumpy ride.
Unsurprisingly, these are among the major issues BMW has addressed with the newcomer. It has sharper looks, an interior that draws on the latest 5 Series and an optional dual-mode electronic damping system.
More space, as well as and improved performance and economy will also be key selling points. An engine stop-start system, which helps save fuel and reduce emissions, will be standard even on models with a six-cylinder power unit and an automatic gearbox.
The new X3 will be sold only as a diesel in the UK. The 20d has a 182bhp four-cylinder 2.0-litre engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, while the 30d comes with a 255bhp 3.0-litre six-cylinder power unit and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The 20d manages 49.6mpg as a manual and 50.4mpg with the optional auto gearbox, with CO2 emissions of just under 150g/km. The 30d is also an efficient car: 46.3mpg and 160g/km. Their top speeds are 131mph for the 20d and 146mph for the 30d, with 0-62mph taking around 8.5 seconds and 6.0 respectively.
New X3: Permanent four-wheel-drive
All versions will have BMW's xDrive permanent four-wheel drive system the company has no plans to follow the likes of Volvo by offering a two-wheel-drive model to further reduce fuel consumption and emissions.
The xDrive system normally sends 40% of engine torque to the front wheels and 60% to the rears, but a greater portion can be switched rearwards if the driver accelerates through a corner to help stabilise the car. With the optional sports steering, the inside front wheel is also braked to help tuck the car into bends.
The new X3 is bigger than the model it replaces, but weighs 25 kilos less. This is largely as a result of savings in the body construction and suspension, but the engines are also lighter than their predecessors.
It is based on an all-new platform, but makes use of components from other BMWs: the suspension is from the 3 Series, interior features come courtesy of the 5 Series and the optional electronic damping system, called Dynamic Dampimng Control (DDC), is similar to the Z4's.
The X3's most exclusive feature, however, is a new form of electronic power steering.
A short drive
A short drive in a disguised 20d prototype revealed that the new model has considerably more shoulder-room and rear kneeroom than the outgoing car. It's also more refined, more responsive and has a smoother ride at least with the electronic dampers.
It goes on sale on November 20, initially only in SE trim. Leather upholstery, front and rear parking sensors, a multi-function steering wheel, BMW's iDrive central control unit and display screen plus automatic air-conditioning will be standard, while the 30d has the ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Electronic damping, sports or active steering and satellite-navigation are among an extensive list of options. Prices are likely to be slightly above those of the present car, which start at 30,605 for the current 20d.