DRIVEN: New BMW X3 xDrive 30i

BMW’s xDrive30i combines all-round performance and a feel-good factor.

I always thought that the members of BMW’s X-family were too pricey. Only until I had a X3 xDrive30i for a week and realised how much car you actually get, leading me to the realisation that R776 631 is actually a very accurate reflection of this fine vehicle.

I’m not going to roll out BMW’s fancy initialism – SAV or Sports Activity Vehicle – for the X3.

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Let’s just call it a good old premium medium SUV.

It became only the Bavarian manufacturer’s second X model when it followed in the footsteps of their large premium SUV, the X5, in 2003 and is currently in its third generation which launched late last year.

On face value, the xDrive30i is typically what you’d expect from BMW.

It looks good from the outside, so much so that a handful of strangers in parking lots rushed over to hand out compliments while getting a closer look.

The large kidney grille, the aggressive headlight styling and the 18-inch alloy wheels look very sporty, but also very elegant with just the right amount of windgat.

The cabin is very comfortable and the quality finishing as upmarket as you’d expect from a premium SUV.

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The computerised instrument panel, the 10.25-inch infotainment system, iDrive touch controller, a simply superb Harman Kardon surround sound system with 600- watt digital amplifier and loudspeakers with chrome detailing and the panoramic glass roof are all part of the package.

Intelligent voice and gesture control and full-colour head-up display are also available as optional extras.

With 185kW of power and 350Nm of torque at your disposal through the 2.0-liter, twinpower-turbo, four-cylinder engine – coupled to an eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission – there is always enough oomph on hand in the xDrive30i.

In fact, BMW claims that it can clock 0 to 100km/h in a very respectable 6.3sec.

It is very heavy on juice driving in Sport mode all day, as I returned figures of around 13l/100km, but if this is going to be your daily ride, the Eco Pro and Comfort driving experience modes will be more cost-effective options as BMW claims that you can get 7.6l/100km on a combined cycle.

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The turbo lag can be a bit annoying if all-out racing between traffic lights is your thing, but when you cruise along to drop the kids at school it shouldn’t even be a factor.

And, speaking of kids and their baggage, space isn’t a problem in the X3.

Although the X3 is technically smaller than the X5 and the brand new X7 launching next year, it’s still spacious enough to comfortably fit four adults with plenty of luggage, not to mention gobbling up a few kids with their schoolbags.

My benchmark to determine a good-sized boot is whether my road bicycle can fit flat on it’s side in the back with the second row of seats folded down.

Yes, I’ve heard of a bicycle rack and actually own two of them, but if I decide to dart off for a sunrise ride with no passengers on board, why go through all the trouble of fitting the rack if I can toss the bike in the back with no effort?

And I was quite surprised that my bike not only fitted very comfortably, but there was room to spare in the 1 600-litre space.

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Another very handy feature is the touch controller next to the gearlever in the centre console which helps you write letters or numbers with your finger for easy navigation.

The downside was that the system wasn’t all that keen on my left-handed scribbling, but the upside was that entertained my seven-year-old on every journey.

The xDrive30i does have allwheel drive and my guess is that although it’s not an out-and-out bushwhacker, it should hold its own to a certain degree off-road, but will be much more comfortable on the tarmac.

There are still endless features I haven’t even touched on, ranging from essential safety functions to little creature comforts, which sums up the amount of car you get at this price tag.

Although there is some pretty stiff competition in this range, I doubt you’ll make a mistake opting for a xDrive30i if space, all-round performance and a feelgood factor is what you’re after.

Likes 

  • Very spacious.
  • Premium ride.

Dislikes 

  • Very spacious.
  • Premium ride.

Verdict 

This is a great option for buyers who can afford to fork out close to R800k for a premium SUV.

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