The right formula for a premium crossover

By Carl Cabusas April 02,2018

The all-new X3 at the Autowelt BMW Cebu dealership.
CDN PHOTO/CARL CABUSAS

G01 BMW X3

BMW’s compact crossover, the X3 has been around since the early 2000.

It was generally a good compact crossover or Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) as BMW would like to call it.

But if you were to break down its individual driving character, it wasn’t particularly good at one thing except that it had good engine options and transmission.

Sure, it had the 3 series’ platform, had a tall ride height and was an all-wheel-drive (AWD) vehicle. But many felt like the X drive (BMW’s AWD system) at that time wasn’t really up for the task and space for passengers and cargo was always an issue.

The second generation addressed many of the issues of the first gen and was much better in terms of size and performance.

But it was still not up there with the rest of pack. It suffered from a firm ride (especially on our bad roads) in favor of a more athletic handling.
Fast forward, three generations after, we arrive at today’s G01, the all new BMW X3.

This time, I think BMW found the right formula for the X3 to finally go head to head with its competitors in terms of handling, ride comfort, price and standard equipment.

The new X3 may look almost the same in terms of design and size as the outgoing model, look closer, the design is actually an evolution of the past generation.

The new one has a longer wheelbase that basically gives the back passengers better knee and head room. Cargo space too has been increased due to that extra length. In general, vehicles with longer wheelbase benefit from having a better ride and handling.

Getting inside and seating behind the steering wheel, one will notice that the new BMW X3 now has better front seats.

It’s sporty yet comfortable at the same time with better all around body support. My issue with the outgoing model has always been that their seats lacked some kind of thigh support. In this new model, that has been addressed properly.

Steering well feels chunky and solid with all the multi-function buttons present. Also present are two paddle shifters behind it. While on the move, X3’s steering response impressed me with its well weighted feeling and direct inputs. It has the right amount of firmness and electronic assist for an enjoyable drive.

Unlike its rivals, the X3’s steering is not numb nor very light. It offers better steering feedback in all sorts of driving condition. Steering input, though, maybe a subjective matter, according to the driver’s preference. I prefer mine with a bit of firmness for a more spirited and controlled driving.

The new X3 comes with an 8 speed, ZF automatic transmission, however, if you want manual control, one can always override using the paddle shifters.

The well sorted gear is mated to a refreshed 2.0-liter diesel, twin power turbo mill with an improved output of the outgoing model. It has now packs of 190 horsepower and 400 newton meter of torque.

That’s a lot of pulling power whenever you feel like pushing the car on a stretch of highway or maybe you just feel like overtaking a slower vehicle up ahead of you. BMW’s engine and transmission has always been known to be a match made in heaven and one of the best in the industry, and in the new X3 that seems to be very evident.

Another area in which the all new X3 shines is road handling, ride comfort and well insulated cabin.

Since BMW has always been known to be a driver’s car and the X3 as a driver’s SUV, ride quality from the previous model was a bit firm for others taste. With the firm ride, road noise and other ambient noise resonates into the cabin.

Thankfully, the all new X3, at least in the X line model, these concerns have mostly faded into thin air. The cabin is hushed, in fact you can’t even tell if the X3 is powered by a diesel engine or not.

In this new X3, BMW continues to offer their Driving Experience Control by letting its driver manually select driving modes that alters the X3’s driving character from Comfort, Sport to Eco mode at a press of a button.

With standard features like all digital meter cluster display and adoptive dampers all across the range, and a price point that’s easier to stomach, BMW hit the sweet spot with the G01. So the all new X3 has evolved into a more mature Sport Activity Vehicle (SAV), but so has my expectations for this kind of premium SUV. Is it now a better contender in the premium SUV segment? I certainly think so.

With the kind of performance that the X3 showed me and that sticker price that is more affordable that its rivals, it’s safe to say that this will give other premium compact SUV a run for their money. Well, at least for now.

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