BMW X3 X-Drive 35i Review

Treat it like a three, not an SUV

By Shahzad Sheikh

Hard right, power on, understeer rears, gets quashed, steering stays true, power gets deployed, traction is reinstated and the grin gets grinnier. We’re not talking sports car or hot hatch. This is not even a regular BMW saloon. This is actually Bayerische Motoren Werke’s second smallest SUV (there’s an X1 remember, and we’re not counting the Mini Countryman). This is the X3.

I didn’t want to like it, and truth be told, I still wouldn’t have one. But I was certainly too quick to dismiss it. I should’ve have taken it on some of my favourite roads on the East Coast, but put off really driving it till the day before it was due back, so just a quick bit of blasting about Dubai – turned out that was all that was needed to change my perspective.

Stuff I don’t like

Well let’s get all this out of the way first. It looks… well… okay. Better than the silly-styled original – the X1 has taken over where that left off. The X3 is more grown up now, more a cross between the X5 and the 3-series. I don’t love it, but I’m not offended by it either.

It’s an SUV but it’s by no stretch of the imagination an off-roader. Think Honda CR-V, and stay away from anything too rocky or sandy.

Thirdly it’s comfy and cosy rather than hugely spacious inside. Again for a small family it’ll be fine, and the boot space is decent.

Finally the shifter that most BMWs have adopted still annoys me and takes getting used to, at least for me. But that’s your lot. Oh, one more thing… it’s pricey. AED290,000. To make you stop and think… a full-fat Lexus GX460 (the luxury Prado with a V8, which will carry more people and go more places) can be had for AED278,000. Very different types of cars, but still…

Stuff I like

Good compact size, decent family car, and most of all bags of performance and a fun drive. The turbocharged 3.0-litre inline six puts out 300bhp and 300lb ft from just 1300rpm through an 8-speed auto – in a compact SUV! Wasn’t that long ago an eight-speeder was a novelty act in a super luxury barge.

It distributes the torque through all four wheels giving a 0-100kph time of 5.7seconds – yes that’s UNDER six seconds. A top speed of 240kph confirms this is no slouch. Those are decent numbers. The good thing is that is feels as quick from behind the wheel. In Sports+ it’s properly fun.

And then there’s the pretty eager turn-in, the tenacious road-holding, and the keenness to go place. You might lose track of which of the eight gears you’re in but they’re a quick to react to your inputs if you want to flick the paddles yourself.

Who’s it for then?

I’m not sure really. On appearance alone and its sensible size, this makes sense as a quality piece of family kit. However, there’s latent untapped potency in a car that on the face of it, appears to be rather forgettable sit-on-a-driveway-of-ordinariness sort of thing. In fact it’s up for some proper spanking now and then, much more than you think. Is that a naughty twinkle I see in its angel eyes?

Specs
BMW X3 X-Drive 35i
Price: $78,800 (AED290,000)
Engine: 2979cc straight-six, 300bhp @ 5800rpm, 300lb ft @ 1300rpm
Performance: 5.7secs 0-100kph, 245kph, 8.8L/100
Transmission: eight-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Weight: 1805kg

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