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BMW X3 review: X marks the treasure
HAVE you ever wondered why cars made by a given upper-crust, German brand all tend to look the same?
Volkswagen's head of design, Klaus Bischoff, summed it up very neatly: "It's better to copy yourself than to be seen as copying others."
In other words, it's to reinforce a strong brand identity - these are luxury marques after all, where the badge is just as important as, if not more than, the car beneath.
This visual homogeneity comes into focus when looking at BMW's all-new, third-generation X3 sport utility vehicle (SUV).
While certain contemporary details such as the larger kidney grille and fender-mounted air vents are obvious, unless you really squint and focus, it's hard to tell apart from the previous model, or even from its smaller X1 and larger X5 brothers in the BMW line-up.
It's unabashedly a modern SUV, all high posture and macho road presence, and feels it from behind the wheel, too. Based on the new CLAR platform seen in the latest 5 Series sedan, the upright stance, tall seating position and big wheels make you feel like you're on safari, even if it's just the urban jungle you're plodding through.
There's also lots more space on offer this time around, as the new platform has allowed the X3 to gain interior room while remaining almost the same size.
The large boot and split fold seats are no surprise, but the tonneau cover cleverly stows beneath the boot floor for minimum fuss.
All-wheel drive and a gutsy turbocharged engine mean the X3 isn't a sluggish beast, but a responsive one. Just like the previous model, it's capable of a surprising turn of speed given a committed handler, but what's more impressive is its quiet cabin, a consequence, BMW says, of its class-leading aerodynamic efficiency.
But like so many SUVs these days, the ride quality on rough surfaces is busy. This particular model, the M Sport variant, has larger wheels and firmer suspension, so those who need a plusher ride would do well with the less expensive xDrive30i xLine model, that retails for S$245,888 with Certificate Of Entitlement (COE).
In other words, the X3 is a quintessential modern SUV. Between it and the competition, in the form of the Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI and Mercedes-Benz GLC 250, there's very little to choose from. In fact, it has the exact same horsepower and 0-100km/h time as the Audi.
What does give the X3 a slight edge are the lessons learnt from larger, costlier BMWs like the 5 Series. The leather, satin aluminium and 'X' badges are outward signs of this, while the extensive suite of advanced functions - everything from gesture control, to a 360-degree parking camera, to BMW's suite of connectivity options that include controlling the car via an app - endow the X3 with a particularly rich feature set.
The Germans might be all about hierarchy and homogeneity, but in the X3's case, it's the features and tech inherited from siblings that make it a strong offering.
BMW X3 xDrive30i M Sport
Engine 1,998cc, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 252hp at 5200-6500rpm
Torque 350Nm at 1450-4800rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
Top Speed 240km/h
0-100km/h 6.3 seconds
Fuel efficiency 7.6L/100km
Price S$260,000 with COE (estimated)
Agent Performance Motors