Owen Norris20 March 2012

Top Gear Garage: BMW X3 goodbye

We say goodbye to our BMW X3

Back in Series 4 of TopGear, Jeremy reviewed the old X3. He didn't much like it. It had a bone-shaking ride, the looks of a Fifties secondary school and was crap off-road. But now I've had a chance to live with the new incarnation. And it's a massive leap forward.

Get inside, and it feels instantly better-made than the old one, with much better plastics. Combine that with the clean design found in all other BMWs nowadays, and it's a quality place to spend time.

The one thing a lot of people don't get to grips with in a BMW is the dreaded - but now standard - iDrive system. I got used to it after a few weeks, and, if I'm honest, I'd be lost without it. I've spent hours fiddling in stuck traffic. The nav and MMI is very expensive at £2,515, but I have to admit it is very good.

The car swallowed every load that I threw at it. It's not much smaller than an old X5. Economy was pretty good for this class, averaging low 30s in town and nudging 40 on motorway runs. Combine that with very low CO2 emissions, and the X3 shouldn't work out too expensive to run long-term.

After a month of living with a frustrating manual gearbox, I swapped to the new £1,525 eight-speed auto 'box to see if that helped. It transformed my commute and boosted the economy as well. Well worth it.

Despite only being a 2.0, I never felt like I needed a bigger engine. Possibly helped by the excellent auto 'box. We also specced a tow bar to see if it came in handy. At £650, it's not a cheap option, but it stows very neatly away and glides out at the flick of a switch. How very German. We towed an Aston Martin Cygnet on a trailer all the way down to the South of France and back. It did the job with no fuss at all.

Over the Christmas break, I had Pirelli winter tyres fitted but didn't really get the chance to use them. But it was quite cold and wet up north, and it felt solid and assured under braking with no scrabbling when pulling out of junctions under heavy acceleration. The one thing you really need to remember is that you are not invincible.

Would I buy one? Definitely, but I'd do without the M Sport kit and probably get it in black to make it look a bit harder and hide some of the odd lines. It felt solid and, above all, very safe to drive. Which is what this car is all about, really.

So the final question has to be: has BMW fixed the X3? It's got to be a yes for me. Everyone who has borrowed the X3 has given the keys back with glowing praise for it, and, of all the cars I've had, this has been the most capable and useful. I'll be gutted to see it leave the car park.

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