The ride is firm courtesy of 20-inch low-profile runflat rubber. It has grip but the low profile means you can expect a fair amount of understeer as the tyres slide across a gravel surface. The M40i is a tarmac machine and a good one at that.
The xDrive20d lacks the power of its M-Performance sibling, but it makes up for it with its all-round character. The 140kW and 400Nm will cruise to 100km/h in eight seconds. BMW is also claiming an average consumption figure of 5.4l/100km.
The torque delivery is smooth, allowing you to cruise better on the tarmac but even more so on the gravel, but here too things are not perfect. The tyre profile is better at 225/60 on 18-inch rims, but they are still runflats and that makes exploring a little tricky. BMW says it will not offer normal tyres.
Tyre issues aside, there is loads more that is new in the X3. Things are quieter courtesy of more sound insulation including a windscreen made from acoustic glass. The interior is more upmarket and more connected with a 10.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a new multifunction steering wheel (it’s thinner than the old one which we don’t like so much) and more executive-looking materials and design.
The interior is where you will need to tick the most options though, particularly if you want the better 12.3-inch touchscreen, the ambient lighting and the digital instrument panel. Fortunately there are package options including xLine, Luxury Line and M Sport which will give you some of these things.
When we look back at the original X3 it was almost as though BMW made it because it felt it had to. The new one feels as though BMW has made it because it wants to. The designers and engineers have put so much effort into it that suddenly downsizing from a X5 seems not only plausible but the right thing to do. And while the first models are imported, from April 2018 you will be able to buy one that is built in SA. Now that’s something to be able to laud over the braggers in their X5s.