Cruise Control

BMW designed its sports activity vehicles (SAV) with cosmopolites-cum-weekend mountain bikers in mind, but the high-perched all-wheel-drive is just as slick in city traffic. Jacqueline Wales reports on the launch of the latest X3.

A festive group of motoring and lifestyle journalists and curious passers-by turned out for the launch of the BMW X3 in Jakarta this April. Everyone was keen to see whether the second generation X3 would meet the high expectations.

The market for premium SAVs in Indonesia is fairly buoyant with a handful of high-end car manufacturers such as Porsche, Mercedes Benz and Lexus vying for attention. In recent years, BMW’s series of SAVs, X3 cousins the X1 and X5 models, have dominated the market.

The original X3, launched in 2003, was the second vehicle marketed by The latest model so far appears to be a crowd pleaser. Alterations to the body design and specifications have raised the bar.

Most notable for today’s buyers are the two engine variants available in the latest model: the X3 xDrive35i with an in-line six-cylinder gasoline engine and the X3 xDrive20d with an in-line four-cylinder diesel engine.

First impressions

Subtle but pleasing changes to the exterior means the X3 now resembles the more mature and muscular X5 model. The sculpted bonnet, grill face and slightly curved roof give it a sporty and confident appearance. The cabin too has had a face lift and now sports leather upholstery.

Size-wise, the new model is 79mm longer and 28mm wider than its predecessor, with plenty of leg room and enough room to fit a family and a fair amount of luggage. Despite the size, the next generation X3 is actually lighter than the earlier model, which leads us to the next point.

Today, people are looking for people movers that also have some eco-cred. Lightweight, fuel-efficient vehicles with modest CO2 emissions are expected, but so too are attractive performance figures. The X3 has worked hard to pitch these qualities to potential owners.

The BMW X3 xDrive35i, with a 3.0 liter straight-six cylinder petrol engine, generates a maximum output of 306 hp. From 0 to 100 km/h, the X3 petrol engine connected to an eight-speed sports automatic transmission comes in at just under six seconds.

It can achieve a top speed of 245 km/h and fuel consumption
is 11.4 km per liter (km/L) with CO2 emission levels at 204 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer (g/km).

The BMW X3 xDrive20d is powered by a two-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine that delivers fuel efficiency with generous torque at low engine speeds.

Connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission, it’s performance figures register output of 184 hp at 4,000 rpm, acceleration from 0 km/h to 100 km/h in 8.5 seconds and a top speed of 210 km/h.

As BMW sees it, this model sets a new benchmark for the manufacturer in efficiency, with average fuel consumption of 17.9 km/L and a CO2 emission level of 147 g/km.

Boosting fuel efficiency, the eight-speed transmission on both models is combined with an Auto Start-Stop function that switches the engine off when the vehicle is at a standstill. The function is activated when the car is at a standstill for at least one second with the foot brake pedal depressed, for example while stopped at a traffic light. This avoids unnecessary fuel consumption.  When the brake is
released the engine restarts automatically.

Good behavior

Any issues with the on- and off-road performance of the original X3 have been addressed in this second generation.

The permanent four-wheel drive technology, xDrive, comes as standard. It is an electronic control unit interlinked with Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), which counteracts any tendency to over- or under-steer.

A new suspension system has also been incorporated, as well as a new electric power steering system.

While usually last on the check-list, safety features are certainly worth some attention. The BMW X3 comes with all the standard features such as air bags for all passengers, and many more that are often only known as acronyms: ABS (Antilock Braking System), EBV (Electronic Brake Force), CBC (Cornering Brake Control)
and DTC (Dynamic Traction Control) – a system for both handling and safety which improves grip whether on a wet asphalt road surface or off-road.

Deep pockets

With all of the above in mind, the question looms: How much is that BMX X3 in the window?

Deep pockets are required, but of course that is to be expected in this category of high-end SAVs. The xDrive35i petrol engine X3 is the priciest and starts at Rp1.028 billion.

The xDrive20d diesel engine starts at Rp828 million for the business package while the executive package starts at Rp898 million.

It is difficult to predict how the new X3 will be received, considering both the cosmetic changes and the introduction of a diesel engine, but given BMW’s continuing dominance of the luxury car market as a whole, one might suspect the outlook to be positive.

Published in Globe Asia magazine and PEAK magazine. 2011.

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