BMW launched the first X3 back in 2003 – not as an SUV but as the Munich-based automaker’s Sports Activity Vehicle.
You would really upset the Beemer builders if you called their X-models SUVs because they believe all their X models are not just great off-roaders, but have work capabilities and other sporting uses as well.
You probably know by now that the BMW X3 replaces the current 3 Series as BMW South Africa’s local production model.
Designed by BMW’s Calvin Luk, the third generation X3 does look good and the M40i variant I had on test ticked all the visual boxes.
I personally did not like the design of the two previous X3 generations but there was always something to love about them.
So I had a jaunt up to Mpumalanga from Johannesburg in the all-new BMW X3 M40i, which is the first M Performance model in the X3 stable.
It wins in the looks department with its bold and dynamic styling cues of the model it replaces.
It features a stretched wheelbase, long hood that accommodates an in-line straight six, a muscular “three-dimensional” kidney grille and fog lights that form a hexagonal design.
The rear features tail light housings that present a similar three-dimensional look.
Our test unit came with the optional Adaptive LED Headlights and twin exhaust tailpipes that offer a good symphony.
Inside, the X3 M40i features some of the tech found in the new BMW 5 and 7 Series such as gesture control and lane departure assist.
You get standard electronic adjustable sport seats for the drive and passenger, a full-colour HeadUp Display and a 10.25-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay which I connected my iPhone to for the long journey.
As I have mentioned earlier, I took the X3 M40i to Mpumalanga during the holidays, which meant having to pack big luggage bags for the journey.
Thanks to the spacious boot measuring 550 litres, I was able to fit all my luggage in with ease.
The X3 M40i has grown in terms of size, with the length increased by 78 mm and the wheelbase by 54 mm, so space was nothing to worry about even with the five occupants.
Powered by 3.0-litre, twin-turbo M Performance in-line-six engine, it sends 265kW of power and 500Nm of torque to all four wheels (xDrive) via an eight-speed automatic.
It comes with three driving modes – Sport, Comfort and Eco Pro.
I did not get the chance to test how the X3 M40i performs with data but BMW says it can do a 0-100km/h sprint in 4.8 seconds before hitting a top speed of 250km/h.
Driving the X3 M40i on the road down to Bushbuckridge was an exhilarating experience.
With the drive mostly done in Eco Pro mode throughout the journey, the X3 M40i gets so happy that I found myself speeding – but not by much, I swear JMPD.
It has a firm and comfortable ride and body roll is minimal even in tight corners.
The X3 M40i can be specified as an option with adaptive M Sport suspension, which covers an even wider spread of ride comfort and sporty set-up options.
Select the Sport mode and you get incredible acceleration which made overtaking easy even in the highest gear.
Acceleration can be a bit reluctant but in a good way when you engage the Eco Pro mode.
The xDrive system works wonders in terms of keeping you and the tarmac friends.
You get prompt response when tapping on the throttle, and the exhaust note when lifting off the throttle is almost as enjoyable as accelerating and changing gears.
You also get quick gear changes, whether you’re in fully automatic mode or shifting yourself using the paddle shifters.
As fun as it is to drive, the X3 M40i returned 9.2l/100km when driving in urban areas but a soft right foot when you head to the highway and you’ll get the numbers below the 8l/100km mark.
In my opinion, the new X3 M40i tops the list of its rivals and if speed, comfort and looks are part
of the list of things that make up your next car, be sure to pay BMW a visit but best be prepared to pay a hefty price of R1 019 326.