Driven - November 2017

Launch Drive : All-New BMW X3 in South Africa

All New BMW X3 in South Africa

The mid-sized SUV market is fast becoming one of the most hotly contested segments in South Africa and for good reason. For the family, it’s a perfect combination of space, versatility, ground clearance and all the weekend activities rolled into a sleek package that can climb pavements, swallow the kid’s kits bags and the weeks shopping. What else do you need? In this segment, you get the usual spilt of affordable and premium vehicles as you would in most segments and this has been dominated but the big three Germans with the Swede making a name for itself in the last couple of years with its XC60 iteration. One of the major players, and the topic of this article, is the BMW X3. It’s led the pack in-terms of being the right blend of functionality, Sportiness and looks and with the latest generation, chassis code G01, it’s looking to add to the 1,5 million units sold from its first-generation introduction in 2003.

New BMW X3

Our introduction to the latest addition to the BMW X family is the 20d xDrive adorned with Luxury line. One thing that stands out from the first time you open the door and have a seat is the cabin and the materials used. Taking a lesson from the new generation Q5, the cabin is a luxurious place to be. From the light contrast seats – not advisable if you go by the name Mom or Dad- to the dark oak, the cabin gives you the right feeling for making you way to the premium shopping isle. Like the Q5, and to be honest most of the players at this price bracket, you feel like your hard-earned money bought you a lovely place to be in and you don’t feel short-changed at any time.

As is my preference on launch drives, I elected to be passenger for the first stint as this give me a chance to really get acquainted with all the new gadgets and really come to grips with the new technology, something that modern BMWs seem to be doing well. This variant seemed to have all the gizmos that your heart would want but your rational mind would decline as this would mean a second to third mortgage on your home. Straight from its older sibling’s spec baskets, our test vehicle had, amongst many standard features, the full LED lights, professional navigation, multifunction instrument display, Harmon Kardon sound, drive assist, and and and. We told you about the second to third mortgage. In terms of safety features, most of the features are non-cost and come standard, so that means that you get the full alphabet soup to keep you and your loved ones safe. The one thing that we must mentioned is that the partnership between BMW and Harmon Kardon has been a long and fruitful one and if you are a family that enjoy your sing along trips, this option is one to tick off.

I couldn’t stay riding shotgun forever and at one of our scheduled stops, it was time for a driver change. This new 20d motor married to the tried, tested and loved ZF 8 speed gearbox, is a little bit more eager and with vast use of weight saving materials, isn’t slow out the gate as well. The 0-100km/h sprint is dispatched in a claimed 8,0 seconds, and the feisty diesel will run all the way to a 213km/h top end. This sportiness is thanks to a hike in power and torque to the tune of 140kW and 400Nm respectively. We got some twisty bits in a damp and foggy Knysna and the BMW DNA came to the forefront very quickly. With 50/50 weight distribution cornering becomes very enjoyable and predictable. With the revised xDrive system, power and torque gets distributed seamlessly to all four corners without hesitation and never did we see the DSC light flash to warn us that we are trying a bit too hard for road conditions.

Off the beaten track, the X3 remains composed and well damped to the point of thinking that the footprint is courtesy small wheels on water balloons underfoot. On closer inspection, we found that the 20d Luxury Line was shod with 19” alloys with 245/50 section tyres. Not really off-road kit then and tell us that the Bavarians spent a decent amount of R&D on the suspension. Being a BMW and having off-road capability, we were impressed that it didn’t cower on the lose stuff and inspired confidence to the point that we started steering the vehicle via the rear axle. Not that anyone who buys this car would have this high on the importance list, but it’s good to know that should the mood take you, and you have some muddy roads on the way home, you could have some fun without working up much of a sweat.

New BMW X3

We all met up at the superb Conrad Pezula hotel where we were to spend the night. The media briefing highlighted a very important fact for BMW South Africa and that is that this new vehicle will be built locally. This is thanks to a R160M investment upgrade to the facility in Roslyn to make sure that all is in place for the new vehicle. This does however mean that the new X3 will be replacing the locally built 3 series though. This new upgrade was done while still producing the aforementioned 3 series and new X3s are expected to roll of the production line after the last 3 series from South Africa towards the middle of 2018.

The next day, we were greeted by the previous day’s rainclouds, ever so keen to show us the handling capabilities of the new M Performance variant of the X3. Named the X3 M40i, it sports the in-line 6 cylinder with numbers squarely aimed at the Audi SQ5 and the Mercedes GLC 43, it produces 265kW and 500Nm. Claimed performance figures are 0-100km/h in 4,8 seconds and the autobahn nanny comes to halt lift off at the familiar 250km/h. Nursing this “340i with xDrive X3” variant out of hotel and through the busy centre of Knysna was like walking a very strong but lovable mature pit bull terroir. With a careless extension of the right foot, the M40i lunges forward in a fashion not fit for school run vehicle. We finally got out to the country toad and could let the M40i off its leash. This B58 in-line 6 motor is one of the best out there and with soundtrack from the exhaust, it was common to see the needle chase the redline in most of the lower gears. My fun was halted by my co-pilot who mentioned something about a Driver swop. What a kill joy! It was then I saw his cruel but genius plan of doing the second leg of the driving. See, the second leg of the driving roads had some of the most beautiful switchbacks and esses that I have seen and knowing the area, he saved them for himself. It was from the passenger seat that I had a sense of how quickly the M40i can cover ground and the pops and bangs from the exhaust on lift off and overrun are just simply sublime.

New BMW X3

We got the airport and felt that BMW has organised the rain, fog and mud. It certainly highlighted the strength of the new vehicle and has variants to appeal to all needs and driving styles. At launch, two petrol and two diesel variants will be available being the 20d, 30d and the 30i and the firecracker M40i. Engines are an evolution of the familiar BMW drives trains with a bit more power and torque here and there but with economy being better than the last generations.

We have no doubt that BMW will continue being successful with this latest generation of the X3 and being a local vehicle now, I’m sure there will be some attractive packages to get more bums in seats. From what we have briefly seen, they are not bad seats to be in.

New BMW X3 Pricing In South Africa

X3 xDrive20d: R684 200

X3 xDrive30i: R739 800

X3 xDrive30d: R868 300

X3 M40i: R991 100

Also published on Medium.