The fresh-faced midsize luxury SUV now has the looks to match its pace!
The midsize luxury SUV segment is a highly evolved one. Each player here knows its strengths and has managed to carve a niche for itself by playing on its said strengths. The Mercedes-Benz GLC is big on comfort while the Audi Q5 is tech-laden. The Volvo XC60 offers a contemporary feel while the BMW X3 has always been the sportiest of the lot. For 2022 the X3 amps up its sporty quotient with an updated look and better features.
The X3 M Sport edition you see here impresses even more with its flashy looks. While capable, the X3 was never eyed as a sporty SUV but the facelifted version begs for attention! The updated bumper design goes well with the prominent grille that gets an ‘active air stream’ curtain which opens and shuts to control engine temperature. When closed it reduces drag. The slim headlamps feature J-shaped LED DRLs and complement the overall look. With adaptive LED lighting, they also light up the road well.
Besides sportier bumpers the M Sport package also includes these cool looking, 20-inch M alloys as an option. They enhance the X3’s sportiness overall and are worth going in for over the standard 19-inch rims, despite the slight compromise on ride quality. Another highlight is the ‘Brooklyn Grey’ paintjob that adds a dash of premiumness. Coupled with the M Sport’s Piano Black accents and M wheels, it helps Besides sportier bumpers the M Sport package also includes these cool looking, 20-inch M alloys as an option. They enhance the X3’s sportiness overall and are worth going in for over the standard 19-inch rims, despite the slight compromise on ride quality. Another highlight is the ‘Brooklyn Grey’ paintjob that adds a dash of premiumness. Coupled with the M Sport’s Piano Black accents and M wheels, it helps.
While the exterior design impresses, I am a tad disappointed with the interior design. BMW’s dashboard design has not evolved as much as its competitors over the years and the design feels pretty similar across the range. That said, BMW makes some of the best driver-centric cabin layouts. I love the snug driver’s cockpit and how the infotainment system is oriented towards the driver and makes driving the X3 feel almost as if you’re driving a sportscar! A larger, 12.3-inch touchscreen takes centre stage and impresses with its intuitiveness and resolution, especially the 360-degree views. The digital instrument cluster has been carried over but gets graphic updates. Other features include a parking assistant, three-zone climate control and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Wireless charging is offered as an optional accessory though while ventilated seats, which have become a norm now, have been given a miss.
Cabin quality is top-notch and instead of faux wood trim, the X3 uses a mix of piano-black plastics, brushed aluminium and Cognac-hued leather. Cabin space is impressive and the X3 feels airy with the panoramic sunroof. The well-bolstered seats feel snug and also hold you well when pushing the SUV around corners. As a driver’s SUV, the X3 impresses from behind the wheel even before you push the starter button.
The 1,998cc turbocharged petrol engine is a gem of a motor. Delivering 252PS and 350Nm, it impresses not just with its performance but also the way the power is put down. A highlight of modern turbo-petrol motors is their responsiveness and this one coupled with a brilliant eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission feels perfectly connected and responsive. Power delivery is instant and linear, so you are never left wanting. Responses are even sharper in Sport mode, making you feel like you are driving a sportscar. For the record, the claimed 0-100kmph time of 6.6 seconds is identical to the Z4 20i! The M Sport package also includes launch control, adding to the sporty quotient. The motor feels refined when cruising and when pushed emits a delicious growl from the twin exhausts. What impressed me most about the motor is its efficiency though. Driving it from Mumbai to Pune the X3 was surprisingly efficient and in fact the fuel gauge and range display barely dropped even at the end of my 120km drive!
Expectedly, the dynamics impress too. The X3 runs on adaptive suspension which firms up in Sport mode to deliver a flatter ride around corners. Besides the negligible body roll, the suspension also aids the xDrive system to offer massive grip, helping the X3 go around corners like it’s on rails! The M Sport steering adds to the immersive feeling too. The wheel is thick and contoured and feels nice to hold, weighs up well in Sport mode and is also precise besides offering good feedback. The brakes could offer better bite though. They offer a progressive feel and get the job done, but stronger brakes would round out the package better.
All said and done, while the dynamics are very impressive and help in turning the X3 into a driver’s SUV, the sportiness comes at the expense of a good ride quality. The suspension setup is firm and there’s little give on bad roads meaning the suspension crashes over ruts and sharp edges. The setup is a little forgiving in Comfort mode though and should feel better with the standard, 19-inch wheels and a set of higher profile tyres. That said, plush ride quality isn’t something you should be looking for in the BMW X3.
The X3 M Sport is priced Rs 65.9 lakh ex-showroom onwards and it certainly makes a solid case for itself as a sporty SUV, besides setting itself apart from its competition as a proper driver’s SUV. It also looks sharper and sportier now. So if performance and dynamics sit above everything else on your requirement list and you are willing to compromise on ride quality (or switch to the smaller, 19-inch wheels), the BMW X3 M is the SUV you should be looking at.