BMW X3 Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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What is it like to drive?

Before we get into that, let’s run through some powertrain options with some figures. The diesels kick off with a 2.0-litre turbo xDrive20d with 187bhp and an impressive 295lb ft of torque. Up from that is a 282bhp/479lb ft xDrive30d, before the range is topped by the M40d, which actually uses the same 3.0-litre six-cylinder but with 335bhp and 516lb ft of torque. The latter manages an impressive 0-62mph time of 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 155mph. 

The 30d is certainly powerful enough though and you'll seldom dip your toe into the accelerator's deep waters. That's because it can shove you along on all that torque, and the eight-speed auto is beautifully calibrated to take advantage.

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Although it's by no means silent, masses of relaxed and elastic urge is always there for the taking, even as the rev-counter stays in the subdued region of the dial. Mash it and the revs climb high for a diesel, the straight-six sound percolates and you're looking at 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds. All are mild-hybrids too, meaning the 48-volt acts like an eager start/stop system. 

And the petrol engines?

The entry level petrol is another 2.0-litre four-cylinder – the xDrive20i, although this one gets 181bhp and 221lb ft of torque. That’ll be a big seller on our shores. 

The only other mild-hybrid petrol option is the M40i, with its 355bhp and 4.9 second 0-62mph sprint. The petrol six is surprisingly boomy on a motorway on-ramp or climbing a hill. That's because the transmission tends to let it labour at low revs in an attempt to keep a lid on its appetite for unleaded. So you might want to keep the transmission in sport mode or take to the downshift paddle.

For more serious acceleration, it puts on a mighty show in the mid-to-upper register and sounds terrific as it goes.

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Tell me more about this M40i…

Well, it comes with specially tuned suspension too, but every X3 we’ve tested so far has had adaptive dampers. The character of the M40i doesn't differ much from the diesels – it's just that it's better tied down and offers extra feel though a full-effort bend.

But all go around corners well?

There's a fluency that was absent in the old X3/X4. The old cars felt wooden as they strained their weight. The new ones have progressive reactions and a sense of rear-bias in Sport mode – a button that tautens the damper programme and changes centre diff emphasis among other things. Their steering isn't as transparent as you'd hope, but it's gearing and response is well-measured.

The ride, both on the diesels and the powerful petrols, is surprisingly supple at all speeds. Worth remembering that we aren’t talking about the obscenely stiff X3 M here, though. The M40i is actually smoother than a big-wheeled F-Pace. The diesels and lowly petrols on smaller wheels more so again.

And there’s a plug-in hybrid option?

Yep, that’s the xDrive30e which pairs a 4cyl petrol engine with an electric motor and a small lithium-ion battery that’s mounted under the boot floor. BMW reckons on 249bhp, but with an extra 40bhp potentially available from the electric motor when absolutely necessary. As a result you’re looking at a 0-62mph time of 6.1 seconds, and despite the extra weight it does feel particularly sprightly.

BMW’s integration of the two powertrains is super smooth too, although the four-cylinder can get a little rattly if you run the battery flat and ask it to do all of the heavy lifting.

Expect a real-world 25-30 miles of all-electric range from a full charge though, and spec the smallest wheels for a supremely comfortable ride.

Highlights from the range

the fastest

BMW X3 xDrive M40i 5dr Auto
  • 0-624.8s
  • CO2180.0g/km
  • BHP360
  • MPG31
  • Price£55,120

the cheapest

BMW X3 xDrive20i MHT M Sport 5dr Step Auto [Tech Pack]
  • 0-628.4s
  • CO2
  • BHP184
  • MPG
  • Price£45,280

the greenest

BMW X3 xDrive M40i 5dr Auto
  • 0-624.8s
  • CO2180.0g/km
  • BHP360
  • MPG31
  • Price£55,120

Variants We Have Tested

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