BMW’s classiest tuners work their thoughtful magic on the ultimate diesel X3
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The Top Gear car review:Jeep Compass
What is it like on the road?
The 170bhp 1.4-litre petrol is a lively and sweet-sounding engine in other Fiats and Alfas. Not here. It drones miserably, both at suburban speeds and when accelerating. All the verve seems to have been sucked out of it, and you need 9.3sec for 0-62.
Still, it’s not all grim. The ZF nine-speed autobox is less fretful than in other applications, shifting ratio only when it makes sense, usually doing it smoothly, and downshifting helpfully as you descend hills.
The diesel we tested is a 2.0, with the same transmission and also making 170bhp. Performance was similar, naturally. Although a 2.0 diesel is always going to have more torque than a 1.4 petrol, the autobox hides the petrol’s deficit well by using more revs. And since the diesel is also noisy and harsh for its type, it’s no quieter than the petrol even if it revs lower.
The autobox’s long top ratios mean peace at last from the engine when you’re cruising. The chassis subframes have bi-directional mounts for refinement, and sure enough road noise is low.
Another chassis tweak is frequency-selective dampers, a Koni race-derived feature that’s supposed to allow sharp shocks to be absorbed by the springs, while quelling the longer slow movement of body float. Hmmm. The suspension is very busy and surprisingly harsh at town speed. Not good for a family crossover. As speed builds, the harshness does melt away somewhat, but this is still a tautly suspended vehicle at least travelling solo. Maybe the suspension is tuned for load-carrying.
The well-tied suspension, as well as cleverly distributed torque through the 4WD system, does make this is perfectly capable thing through corners, even ones with lots of crests and dips. In that sort of regime the steering is accurate, too, if numb. Frankly though, in a family crossover, this talent is a bit superfluous, especially given that the engines really aren’t up for it. More plushness would have surely been a saner compromise.
It’s reasonable to speculate that the Trailhawk version, with longer springs for better clearance and puffier tyres for grip, will probably ride more softly. But it doesn’t arrive for a few months after the rest of the range, so we haven’t driven it. It also comes with crawler gears, underbody protection, and a rock crawl mode in the terrain-select system. The other 4WD versions have sand, mud and snow, all of which retune powertrain, diff and traction-control systems to suit.