When the first BMW X3 was launched in 2003, that model opened the floodgates for the mid-size premium SUV market. Since its introduction, more than 1.5 million units have rolled out of BMW’s assembly lines. In fact, the X3 is just part of the 5.4 million X vehicles BMW has sold since introducing the original X5 in 1999.
That's proof that customers love buying SUVs, as this segment of vehicles account for more than 34% of BMW's sales volume.
The all-new G01 BMW X3 you see here is in its third iteration, first introduced at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show. Just like the new 5 Series and 7 Series, the new BMW X3 is also underpinned by the same CLAR platform, allowing for weight savings of up to 55 kg, depending on variant.
G01 BMW X3 M40i
Engine: 3.0-litre Inline-6, Turbocharged
Power: 360 hp @ 5,500 rpm – 6,500 rpm
Torque: 500 Nm from 1,520 rpm – 4,800 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed torque converter automatic, AWD
G01 BMW X3 xDrive30d
Engine: 3.0-litre Inline-6, Turbocharged, Diesel
Power: 265 hp @ 4,000 rpm
Torque: 620 Nm from 2,000 rpm – 2,500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed torque converter automatic, AWD
4.8 seconds. That is how quick the all-new G01 BMW X3 M40i takes to accelerate from a dead stop to 100 km/h. That’s quicker than the Porsche Macan S or the Mercedes-AMG GLC43.
The range-topping G01 BMW X3 M40i does pack quite a punch when it comes to raw performance, thanks to the available 360 hp and 500 Nm. The rest of the range are no slouches either, with the base xDrive20d starting off at 190 hp going up 265 hp in the xDrive30d.
Cars prepared at the international media drive all had six-cylinder engines. There was the G01 X3 M40i with a 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-six that churns out 360 hp and 500 Nm. Also present was the X3 xDrive30d with a diesel engine of the same capacity, good for 265 hp and a massive 620 Nm of twisting power. ZF's 8-speed auto is the standard transmission.
The M40i is the first of its kind to receive enhancements from BMW’s M tuning arm, including launch control and an updated xDrive system that sends drive to all four wheels.
More relevant powertrains to the Malaysian market will however be the 2.0-litre inline-four variants set for introduction in spring 2018. They consist of the sDrive20i and xDrive20i with 184 hp and followed by the 252 hp xDrive30i model.
The test cars at the global test drive event are all decked out to the brim with options, so it may not be representative of what will be offered to our market.
There’s no beating around the bush for the exterior of the new G01 X3.
Versus the model prior to it, this model looks sharper up front, with BMW’s signature kidney grille now larger in size. The LED headlights you see here are optional items.
While it may look sharper than the model it replaces, the new G01 BMW X3 still looks too similar to its smaller sibling, the X1.
On the flagship M40i, M-specific bits include unique front and rear bumpers, sports exhaust system, M Sport brakes and Cerium Grey finished trim bits.
Additionally, the 3D LED tail lights seen here are also a cost extra.
The interior of the all-new G01 BMW X3 continues the company’s fashion of keeping things simple and intuitive.
Premium materials are used generously in the interior of the X3, which is a good thing. Even non touch points of the interior gets the same high quality material treatment.
Sitting right smack in the centre of the dashboard is BMW’s iDrive 6 infotainment system together with a large 10.2-inch touchscreen. This infotainment system is similar to the one found in the new 7 Series and 5 Series, with gesture control, Apple CarPlay and a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot.
Options for the new G01 BMW X3 include a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, full colour head-up display, chrome trim, ambient air package, tri-zone automatic air-conditioning and ambient lighting.
We especially enjoyed the combination of the head-up display and digital instrument cluster, providing us with ample information on the road. Navigation information is also clearly shown on the HUD.
Boot space is 550 litres with the rear seats up and can be further expanded to 1,600 litres with the seats folded down, on par with its competition. For more flexibility, the rear seats can be folded 40:20:40 and one-touch fold. There is also a hidden storage compartment under the rear boot floor.
Thanks to its turbocharged straight-six under the bonnet, the G01 BMW X3 M40i is really quite a beasty SUV to drive around our test route in Portugal. Never once we felt wanting from its powerplant. The straight-six also presented us with a lovely engine note when gunned.
Torque delivery is strong, as its maximum 500 Nm of twist is available from a lowly 1,520 rpm all the way to 4,800 rpm. While the BMW X3 M40i may not feature a dual-clutch transmission, the ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic does the job just fine, if not better.
Being a sportier version of the regular X3, this M40i variant also comes with a sports exhaust system that pops and crackles as you’d expect.
Handling wise, the G01 BMW X3 M40i tackled the back roads and highways of Sintra with ease. Steering input was direct, allowing the X3 to turn in sharply, while the suspension did a swell job of keeping the 1.8 tonne SUV planted.
As for the diesel-powered X3, we managed to sample the said vehicle on an off-road course.
Here, BMW’s xDrive system and Hill Descent Control kept everything under control. Bear in mind that our test cars are wearing factory-fitted tires, not off-road-specific units.
The massive 620 Nm of torque also helped the X3 scale some tougher terrain without breaking a sweat.
After our stint on the off-road course, we managed to briefly try the diesel X3 on the road. With more available torque than the M40i variant, don’t be surprised if the xDrive30d variant is quicker than its hotter sibling under some conditions.
What we sampled during our time at Portugal are likely not going to be representative of what will b offered here in Malaysia, though we expect the X3's handling and dynamics to come close enough.
Unlike earlier BMW X3 models, the new G01 BMW X3 blends high quality materials into a reasonably good looking SUV, whilst offering superior driving experience over some of its key rivals. We dare say that the X3's interior is a nicer place to be in than the Mercedes-Benz GLC, thanks to BMW's intuitive controls and ease of use, though the interior design of the GLC may seal the deal for some.
Then there's the dynamics of the G01 BMW X3. In this context, we reckon that the BMW X3 is a far more polished vehicle on the road than the Mercedes-Benz GLC, offering better road manners whilst maintaining ride comfort for passengers.
That aside, we especially enjoy the G01 BMW X3 as it bridges the gap between the smaller X1 and X5 perfectly, offering more practicality than the smaller X1, while being easier to maneuver than the larger X5.
The arrival of the petrol-powered G01 X3 models could be highly anticipated for some, as we reckon the 20i and 30i models could very well be driving force for BMW's sales figures in Asian markets. So BMW has their bases well covered, as they have an X3 for almost every customer, including those seeking a high performance model in the form of the flagship M40i.