2012 BMW X3 REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Medium Luxury SUV
Price: $74,900 (plus on-roads), $89,300 as-tested
Fuel Economy (claimed): 6.0 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 8.6 l/100km
It might be pricey, but the X3 xDrive30d is the pick of the bunch as far as luxury softroaders go.
It’s got the right balance of performance, quality and space, and with the optional M Sport package it’s also got a fair amount of visual ‘presence’ too.
There’s a lot to like about the 30d - as long as you can stomach the price.
Quality: Unlike the previous X3, the current model’s cabin-quality shadows BMW’s higher-grade models like the 5 Series and 7 Series.
Fit and finish is difficult to fault, and build quality is excellent.
There are soft-touch surfaces throughout, well-trimmed leather upholstery, classy brushed aluminium trimmings (a no-cost option on the 30d) and all switchgear feels solid.
Equipped with the M Sport package, our tester also scored a black fabric headliner and a thick-rimmed M Sport steering wheel.
Comfort: There’s plenty of adjustment in the electric front seats, and the steering column is manually adjustable for rake and reach.
Our car was fitted with a panoramic glass sunroof, but headroom is still plentiful for all occupants.
The rear seat is spacious, with no shortage of leg, knee or shoulder room. Minimal intrusion from the transmission tunnel also means an adult can comfortably occupy the middle, and air vents on the centre console keep backseaters cool.
We’re not so keen on the firm cushioning; the back seat squab in particular is quite hard and flat. The front seats however fare a little better thanks to the M Sports Package and the additional support from the side bolsters.
Equipment: As standard, the X3 xDrive30d is equipped with dual-zone climate control, dusk-sensing headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming rear view mirror, cruise control, trip computer, Bluetooth phone integration, USB audio input, foglights, 18-inch alloys and a rear-view camera.
However, our test car was also equipped with a swag of costly options - adding nearly $15k - such as a panoramic glass sunroof, Bluetooth audio integration with voice control, BMW’s high-end sat-nav system and a head-up display.
The M Sport Package added unique front and rear bumpers, sports suspension, more heavily-bolstered front seats and a bevy of M-badged trim pieces.
Storage: There's 550 litres of boot space with the back seats in place, and a shallow storage tray under the boot floor is handy for small items.
Integrated rails in the floor allow tie-downs and other restraints to be fitted, and folding the 40/20/40 split rear seatback expands cargo capacity to 1600 litres.
Handily, the retractable cargo blind also contains a cargo net which clips into the roof. It can also be used with the back seats folded to help contain loose objects.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The xDrive30d’s 3.0 litre turbo diesel engine is by far the best match for the X3s 1800kg frame.
It produces 560Nm of torque at just 2000rpm - that’s only 40Nm less than the twin-turbo V8 behemoth that powers the 650i - and a healthy 190kW at 4000rpm.
All of that low-down torque translates into two things: exceptional off-the-line acceleration, and effortless low-rpm cruising.
Despite its substantial heft, the 30d leaps from zero to 100km/h in just 6.2 seconds - faster than virtually any other SUV in its size category.
It’s not just fast either. When driven normally the 30d delivers respectable fuel efficiency, thanks to its efficient eight-speed automatic and auto engine start-stop system.
We saw an average of 8.6 l/100km during a week of mostly urban driving. It’s far from the claimed figure of 6.0 l/100km, but not bad for an 1800kg SUV.
Refinement: The diesel’s gravelly note penetrates the firewall when accelerating, but otherwise the cabin is quite well isolated from outside noise.
The 18-inch run flat tyres (there is no spare) transmit a small amount of tyre roar on very coarse surfaces though, and rougher roads can induce some rack-rattle you’ll feel through the steering.
Suspension: The M Sport Package gifts the X3 with a firmer sports-tuned suspension, and although there’s a much sharper initial response to bumps, it’s still quite easy to live with.
The optional Dynamic Damper Control system was also fitted to our press car, giving it a smoother ride on rough roads and firmer damper valving when Sport Mode is engaged.
As usual for a BMW, the X3 handles quite well when pointed to a curvy road. You can definitely feel its weight through the wheel, but there’s plenty of grip available.
The electric power steering is quite light and lacks feedback, but the variable ratio steering rack (which comes as part of the M Sports package) makes light work of getting into tight parking spots.
Braking: It’s a heavy car, but the X3 xDrive30d’s all-disc brake system has a responsive pedal and good stopping performance.
ANCAP rating: Not rated.
Safety features: Six airbags (dual front, dual front side and full-length curtain), three-point seatbelts (front pretensioning), anti-whiplash front headrests, ABS, EBD, brake assist, stability control and traction control are standard.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years
Service costs: Servicing costs vary according to vehicle usage.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Range Rover Evoque SD4 Prestige ($75,375) - Range Rover’s shapely Evoque has far more visual appeal than the more conservative X3, but its compact size makes it a less practical alternative. (see Evoque reviews)
Volvo XC60 D5 R-Design ($68,990) - The XC60’s integrated rear booster seats, safety and car-like driving dynamics makes it a great family SUV.
It’s substantially cheaper than the BMW and Q5 too, although its 158kW/420Nm turbo diesel four isn’t as muscular. (see XC60 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
As a suburban family taxi, the X3 xDrive30d is well-suited to the job provided you can hurdle the sticker price.
Although it packs more straight-line performance than you’d ever reasonably need, sharp handling (despite its weight), and ample accommodation for a modern family, its appeal also extends to its fuel-efficiency.
What doesn’t appeal, however, is its price. The base retail price of $74,900 is reasonable for a luxury SUV, but in the option-heavy configuration that we tested, that final retail price ballooned out to nearly $90k.
That’s a couple of grand less than the entry-level BMW X5 xDrive30d. The question then becomes: is there more value in a base-trim - but markedly bigger - X5? That’s something only you can answer.