The BMW X roster has become so congested in recent years that it’s become rather tricky for the layman to figure out exactly which model ticks his or her respective boxes. For many would-be BMW drivers out there, relative newcomers like the X6 and X4 have blurred the lines somewhat between crossover, SUV and coupé. Indeed, this kind of segment-synthesising, model-melding approach simply signposts the more general modern trend for cars that refuse to be pigeonholed into one specific category.
All the while, the BMW X3, part of the vanguard of the German marque’s 4×4 stable, has remained refreshingly unambiguous. Strictly premium, naturally, but also a steadfastly uncomplicated small family SUV. The 2003 original sold by the bucket load and the second generation version upped its game still further in 2011. A total of 1.5 million X3s have been driven off forecourts globally since 2003, a number that BMW hope to boost even further with the launch of this, the 2017 third generation BMW X3.
You won’t be surprised to hear that the all-new compact SUV has kept itself in shape for the new era. Virtually identical to the outgoing model in terms of size, most of the focus falls on an admittedly low-key styling makeover. Beemer’s 3D kidney grille and LED fog lamps go hexagonal for the first time on a BMW X model whilst elsewhere, the rear LED light clusters, sloping roof spoiler and twin exhaust pipes have all be given the once-over. For entry-level money, the SE spec X3 will give you a pair of aluminium roof rails as well as new 18-inch wheels. Upgrade to the xLine model, and the aluminium finish extends to the front grille, whilst more rugged front and rear bumpers join silver metallic side sills along with 19-inch xLine specific wheels.
Really treat yourself, however, and you could get your hands on the all-new top dog of the X3 kennel. Embodying all the visceral pedigree of BMW’s famed performance division, the M40i is the first ever M-Sport model to join the X3 line-up. The high performance SUV dons an ‘M’ aero package along with grey inserts along the front grille, bumpers and mirror caps. Blue brake callipers and M-spec 21-inch wheels are optional, with the M40i’s twin tailpipes squared off and suitably menacing in black chrome.
Whichever spec you opt for, the X3 will always guarantee a luxurious journey from A to B. The base SE features leather seats as standard as well as high gloss interior trim, a sport steering wheel and interior ambient lighting. Park Assist with built-in rear camera is a given, and higher spec models also come with BMW’s leather climate seats. As well as keeping you toasty when the mercury plummets, these innovative X5 hand-me-downs keep you aired on those sweaty summer days. Talking of summer, the new generation X3 offers a generously sized panoramic glass roof with optional acoustic glazing to keep road noise from permeating the characteristic serenity of the cabin.
Meanwhile, the M-Sport branded X3 variants – both M-line and the fully-fledged M40i itself – throw into the mix a bespoke leather steering wheel, sports seats and a new, top-of-the-shop 10.3-inch infotainment screen. Once you’ve grown weary of tinkering with the usual array of touchscreen and voice commands, why not check out the latest generation Gesture Control system – tried and tested on the executive 7-Series, no less. This state-of-the-art motion capture tech senses and responds to the click of a finger or the wave of a hand to operate navigation, stereo and all things infotainment.
Also filtered down from the marque’s flagship limo is the optional BMW Display Key. This handy palm-sized sonic screwdriver uses a tiny display to flash up information on fuel levels and more as well as warning you if you’ve left a window open. Handle with care; dropping this space-age piece of kit through a drain cover could prove a very costly mishap indeed.
The full spectrum of BMW drive modes, including SPORT+ for the M-Sport edition, alters engine mapping as well as the firmness of the X3’s uprated variable suspension. The M40i gets the stiffest, most corner-hugging setting of the bunch. Also available as an option across the rest of the range, the M-tuned suspension firms up dampers and beefs up anti-roll bars. Throw in the sports brakes and variable steering already included in the M-Sport goody bag, and you’ve got yourself an SUV that won’t require any manhandling through the corners.
From launch, two diesel powertrains form the bread and butter of the third generation X3 line-up; the 2.0 litre four-cylinder xDrive20d and the larger 3.0 litre xDrive30d straight-six. A petrol alternative, the xDrive20i, is also due to flesh out the range in the not too distant future but it’s the flagship M40i that’ll really get your pulse racing. The first X3 to don the famous striped badge surpasses the 62mph mark in 4.8 seconds and redlines at an electronically limited 155mph thanks to the 360bhp punch of its 3.0 litre six-cylinder engine. As opposed to its less extravagant counterparts, the M40i’s standard eight-speed Steptronic gearbox is equipped with launch control, an M-Sport staple.
A final mention should go to BMW’s new CoPilot system. Whilst not quite at the semi-antonymous chauffer stage yet, CoPilot brings together BMW’s catalogue of fine-tuned drive assist tools, including Active Cruise Control, into one intuitive package.
The long-awaited third generation BMW X3 arrives in UK showrooms this November. Pricing starts from £38,800 OTR for the base-spec SE trim.