BMW's X3 facelift reviewed

  • Autocar India
  • Updated: Sep 11, 2014 11:23 IST

This may be the facelifted X3 but in India it’s playing a larger role as the launch vehicle for BMW’s latest 2-litre diesel engine. The new engine is of particular importance because it will also replace the base diesel engines in the 3- and 5-series over the coming year. Identical 1995cc displacement and basic layout apart (four-cylinders, common-rail, turbocharger), the company says there’s little else common between old and new engines.

The new engine is a wee bit more powerful than the one it replaces - it produces 187bhp at 4000rpm (3bhp up on the old engine) and 40.7kgm between 1750-2500rpm (up 2kgm). The benefit of the added power is a claimed 0-100kph time of 8.1 seconds that is 0.4 seconds faster than that of the earlier car.
While that may be an almost imperceptible gain in performance, what is very evident is that the new engine is a whole lot quieter than the one it replaces. Idle is all but free from the coarse clatter of the old motor and even on the move, the engine is significantly less noisy. It’s still not the most refined of engines around but in average driving, the eight-speed gearbox does well to keep revs under 2000rpm where the engine functions at its quietest (and most efficient) best. As for the gearbox, it responds quickly to most throttle inputs but in full-auto mode there’s an occasional lag to downshift when you want a sudden burst of power. Manual control on the gear lever (there are no paddle shifters) does make it possible to work around this issue, though.
Performance, on the whole, is impressive. There’s strong punch right from the word go and with manual mode engaged, the engine also revs to a solid 4800rpm before the electronics automatically upshift. The driving modes further help tailor the engine and gearbox’s characteristics to your driving style. That, coupled with the top-spec X3 xLine’s dynamic damper control let you truly exploit this SUVs inherent sportiness. Turn-in is sharp, the steering feels nicely weighted and the advantages of that 50:50 weight distribution can be felt at just about every corner. It is a genuinely fun SUV to drive. It’s also one that’s quite adept at dealing with the rough stuff on Indian roads. Ride quality is on the firmer side but the fact is you hear the bumps more than you feel them.
Just wish they had also reworked the rear seats with this update. The seat base is a tad low and the resulting knees-up seating position compromises thigh support. But, as before, the front seats remain hard to fault for comfort or support.
Changes to the interior are limited to a tidied up centre console, more glossy black plastics, and more metal highlights. There’s also a larger 16.5cm screen for the iDrive system. Small as these changes are, they help uplift the ambience inside an already well-finished cabin. As for the exteriors, there are few visual cues to tell you this is the new-for-2014 X3. The most prominent change is in the attractive new headlights that are larger than before and now fuse with the kidney grille, ala the 3-series and new X5. Look closely and you’ll notice both bumpers have been restyled too.
It has been launched in two variants. The Expedition variant that costs Rs 44.9 lakh (ex-showroom, India) gets a fair amount of kit including driving modes, bi-xenon headlamps, powered front seats, parking sensors, the carmaker’s iDrive system and Bluetooth connectivity. However, if you can, we’d recommend you go for the xLine variant we’ve featured here. It does cost a fair bit more at Rs 49.9 lakh but does get you features such as a panoramic sunroof, dynamic damper control, leather upholstery and larger 18-inch wheels.
But, irrespective of which version you go for, your money will buy you an X3 that’s marginally better to look at, slightly nicer on the inside and significantly quieter than before. Performance from the new 2-litre engine is also always more than satisfactory. But if you want even more power, perhaps you should wait for one with a 3-litre straight six diesel that’s on its way. That would be quite the package.

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