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BMW X3: Three times the performance

BY RORY DALEY
Observer writer

Friday, August 17, 2018

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The BMW X3 has always been in the middle of the brand's X line of sport utility vehicles; offering a combination of size and ability.

For 2018 it continues to do so; however, using a different methodology. Rather than compromise, one can tailor the X3 to his or her needs. Looking for comfort, practicality and off-road ability? then take the xDrive30i. Wanting the need for pure adrenalline rush? Then the M40i trim level is the clear choice.

Now in its third generation, the BMW X3 has grown into the role its bigger brother the X5 used to have, literally. The X3 is now the size of the older generation X5 and replicates the physical appearance. At a glance, it's easy to mix them up. That's not necessarily a bad thing as the X5's own design language is sporty and athletic and it's best visual iteration yet. This transfers handsomely on to the xDrive30i. In M40i guise, things get more aggressive with larger wheels, and a more contoured front bumper. The lower body mouldings also get coloured giving it a sportier look.

Inside, the xDrive30i subdued luxury is the theme. High-quality materials fill the spacious cabin. BMW's technology fades into the background as high-quality materials take centre stage. Every inch is covered in soft-touch materials, with wood, metallic, and glossy piano black making the power driver's seat a very good place to be. Open the full-length panoramic sunroof and the cabin gets an extra sense of polish as the light brings the materials to life. The wood grain gains vibrancy while the metal and glossy accents glisten all while mated to cream leather that increases the feeling of space. Things are bit more serious in the M40i. Its focus is clear: performance. The tones are more sombre with the excellent M Sport seats that impart a feel of speed and have a lower adjustment range making the driver more a part of the driving experience.

There is no lack of luxury features between the two trim levels. All major functions, lights, wipers, are automatic, while everything that can be powered, or operated with the touch of a button is, like parking. Parking Assist is always active; once it recognises a space and it's selected, holding down a button will have the vehicle put itself in the space with no other intervention from the driver. BMW's iDrive infotainment system continues to be one of the best with a multitude of connection options, and control schemes. Bluetooth, USB, scroll wheel, touchscreen: it's all there. Settings can be tailored for individual drivers.

Where the two trim levels of the 2018 BMW X3 part ways is their purpose. On the road, the xDrive30i is the quintessential BMW SUV, practical and powerful. It rides smoothly, but with a hint of the sportiness brought to the surface in the M40i. The two-litre turbocharged motor works in perfect tandem with the transmission across the three modes: ECO PRO, COMFORT and SPORT. It's never found wanting, whether crawling through traffic or powering across highways. With xDrive, BMW's all-wheel drive system, the xDrive30i is no soft-roader; it has the ability to tackle off-road elements one might initially avoid. The more adventurous owner can simply engage the hill descent function and relax as the X3's computers figure out the rest.

The M40i uses its xDrive system for something completely different: maximum speed. Its three-litre turbocharged engine rockets it to 60mph in under five seconds, necessitating the extra mode SPORT+. The larger wheel and lower-profile tyre combination wipes out off-roading. however, that may not matter to those who plan to carve corners and indulge in the occasional stop light grand prix. Faster it is.

FINAL WORD

MODEL: 2018 BMW X3
ENGINE: 2-litre turbocharged (30i)/3-litre turbocharged (M40i)
DRIVETRAIN: Eight-speed/all-wheel drive
SUMMARY: The significantly different focus of the trim levels means choosing the appropriate one for one's driving style is a must.

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