Test Driving the BMW X3 Xdrive 35d – A Stylish road hogger

It looks like mid-size and large SUV’s are here to stay (well at least for the foreseeable future) so if you’re going to jump that way then why not do it in style. I may not totally agree with it but I get the concept. The feeling of safety, the high seating position, the road presence, the adaptability, the convenience – hell I’m starting to sell myself on the whole idea now – however there are several SUVs out there that could have been designed (both aesthetically and mechanically) by my 5 year old. The BMW X3 Xdrive 35d is not one of those SUV’s.

Yes it feels big (or possibly ‘substantial’ is a better word) on the road but it drives in a very manageable way. Its near timeless BMW looks – kidney grille and twin headlamps- immediately ingratiates the brand lovers (of which there are many) and where some other SUV’s have dramatic edges the X3 has rounded out its curves. Don’t think that it’s all sweet and soft though; it has a strong body line that flicks up from the front wheel and joins the shoulder giving off a sense of speed even when stationary and when you add in the athletic look that comes with the M-Body Kit it really is quite the looker – Dominant air inlets, front apron, 20” alloys and the instantly recognizable blue and red M stripe badging really make the difference. With the brands recent upgrades and adjustments the X3 is not the most modern in BMW’s X fleet but it’s a long way from being dated.

Leather and contrast stitching greets you on the inside with Piano Black and brushed aluminium completing the upper class welcome. Taking a look around the inside you become very aware of how spacious this Mid Sized SUV is. Looking back; the tailgate seems like a long way away, I guess that’s why BMW has made it automatic, the Power boot button is conveniently found on the driver’s door. On the subject of rear view visibility, one thing I will say is that (with the back seat headrests up) the view of the road behind through the rear view mirror is a bit limited.

X3 35d interiorThe X3 comes with a robust ‘rubber feel’ dash and this version had a big and manly ‘chunky’ M3 wheel, the latter being something that came in handy when I was putting it through its paces on several occasions during my week behind it. Heads Up Display was good to see and something that I am getting more and more used to using however the ‘Auto hold’ handbrake addition still makes me nervous, I really need to get over this and trust the technology.

Under its substantial bonnet is a 6 cylinder diesel powerhouse that delivers 230kW’s and a huge 630Nm of torque that kicks in down at a low 1,500 rpm. 100kph comes to you at 5.3 seconds and the X3 has a top speed of 245. Drive it sensibly and you get a reported 6L/100k’s combined, but seriously who wants to drive anything with an M badge sensibly.

Put the X3 into Sports Mode and you can get the display to tell you Torque and Kw’s being used in real time, watching those electronic dials peak is well worth the fuel used – think fun per litre rather than litres per Km. The Sports Mode makes a BIG difference to the way the SUV handles and drives and it’s well worth taking the time out of your mundane life to use – it’s not just the revs that change that’s for sure! The X3 35d also comes complete with the confidence delivering X-Drive, it’s a magical drive system that takes all your bad driving habits and turns you into a driving star – it also shows you the driving angles (sort of like pitch and roll) should you be lucky enough to take it off road.

bmw-interiorI opened this piece with my feelings about the size of the X3 but don’t get me wrong, it’s not a gargantuan sized truck. It just seems big for the category it’s in. The inside is expansive and the outside feels large however what I did find is that even around the tight central city roads it’s a very user friendly vehicle. Its 360 degree parking camera will assist you when getting into slimmer parking spots plus it has a multitude of proximity alarms to keep you aware of your surroundings. It’s not a vehicle that will let you go by unnoticed (in either size or style) but you get used to its dimensions very quickly and start to experiment with its power and capabilities – of which it has an abundance of both.

It is a multifunctional family wagon that will happily drop off the kids and then go find a hill to climb for a picnic. It will handle all the kids’ soccer gear and still have room enough for the shopping. As if that wasn’t enough, added to all of this it looks great on your driveway too!

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