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Review: BMW X3 30d

Driven May 2012

Review: BMW X3 30d

Recently, the Samajwadi Party swept the UP state elections from under Mayawati’s feet. Its party workers naturally went into a celebratory frenzy. And one such group went so over the top they actually managed to lock up a whole bunch of media persons who were out covering their celebrations.

Hope no one was hurt, but what could've been major media embarrassment just fizzled out as the winning party enjoyed its success. The point is, when things are going well, even a seemingly strange decision won't upturn the cart.

Pretty much like the choice of a more powerful diesel engine for the already amazingly capable X3, which BMW launched late last year. Even in the smaller 20d guise, the X3 is anything but slow. It picks up pace quickly and you are doing 100kph in under 10 seconds and can potentially barrel past traffic at 210kph.

But in the xDrive30d spec seen here, you get a 3.0-litre, straight six, common-rail unit made out of aluminium and complete with a zero-maintenance particle filter. In English, that translates to an in-line, six cylinder, lightweight and robust engine that only your service centre mechanic will ever come face-to-face with. Even if you do, visually it doesn’t look different from its smaller sibling. But in terms of specs, the number of horses has increased by a massive 74bhp. Raw torque has soared by 180Nm. Even better, all this is at about the same engine rpm range. The result is a sprint to three-digit speeds in a claimed 6.2 seconds and a top whack of 230kph. Importantly, getting there is easy work, which makes the X3 30d a serious player of the fast lane.

The eight-speed Steptronic gearbox, which is optional on the 20d, is standard fare here. It’s a complex piece of kit designed to save fuel with the same gusto as it has to help propel the car better. It tries hard, and with reasonable success, to understand individual driving styles and makes split-second decisions to keep you in the right gear. Does it work? Not flawlessly, as it takes time to understand what’s on the driver’s mind via the right foot. Thankfully, this BMW is an SUV and you will never be on a racetrack to rue lost microseconds. So, in everyday practical terms, it does work well.

Typically, there are three driving modes to choose from – Comfort, Sport and Sport+. In Comfort, the ride is pretty choppy and at slow speeds the X3 can rock like a boat. Which is good if you want to go to sleep. But if you are driving, change to ‘Sport’ because that’s where it firms up the ride without being harsh on your body. The car feels much more stable here. The engine revs higher though, and in slow traffic you wonder whether you are stuck in the wrong gear. Thankfully, you can individually switch off Sport mode, either for the drivetrain or the chassis, which sort of solves the rev noise problem.

The interior is vast and you never realise the amount of space on offer from the outside because the cabin looks tiny compared to the long bonnet. Moreover, the X3 looks anonymous compared to, say, the X1 and I think if it weren’t for the BMW badge and famous kidney grille  most wouldn’t give it a second look. But it does have these strong dominant lines on the bonnet and along the sides, which add a fair bit of flair and prevent the X3 shape from being a disaster.

The new X3, unlike the model it replaced, is very much the sports-ute the doctor ordered. It’s not too big to be cumbersome in the city, not too small to get bullied on the highway. Then there’s four-wheel drive if you need it. There’s more than enough room for five and their luggage. There’s good quality material, robust build and a badge that hints at your bad boy potential (in a good way!).

With a real-world fuel efficiency figure hovering around the 20d's, and sportscar performance, it makes a clean sweep for its cause. Time to celebrate, then. Any fellow journalists around?

Girish Karkera

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