I SOMETIMES wonder whether the acronym SUV denoting sport utility vehicle is something of a misnomer.
Put simply, there isn't much that's sporty about them, certainly when compared to the traditional idea of a sports car - with all the images that concept conjures up of pin you to your seat acceleration and gravity-defying cornering capabilities.
Let's face it, until the term SUV was coined these vehicles were actually referred to as 4x4s.
There are a few exceptions however and the latest BMW X3 35d M Sport could make a pretty strong claim to being one of them.
Usually if you want a genuinely sporty SUV you'll need to have deep pockets and plump for something sitting near the top of prestige manufacturers' ranges.
While BMW's 35d M Sport isn't exactly cheap it has a price tag that isn't in the stratosphere either.
The latest X3 represents a decent and sensible evolution of the original model, which was BMW's second foray into this market.
Like all BMWs arriving to replace a new model it's subtly rather than radically different but it certainly stands out for looking a tad more modern and characterful.
SUVs can be hard to design, does one go for something that follows the traditional boxy blueprint or something a little more curvaceous and distinctive.
The X3 in all honesty sits somewhere between the two, being angular in some respects but with some pleasing design lines too.
My first impression was that it was smaller than its predecessor but it's actually larger.
The driving position definitely feels a little lower, though that might be something to do with the lowered sports suspension on the M Sport versions.
On the inside this X3 is every bit the modern BMW, featuring first-class fit and finish, some classy and relatively minimalist styling and an iDrive system that has evolved from the kind of high-tech gizmo that only the brightest computer boffin could navigate their way around to something that is wonderfully intuitive and easy to use.
The cabin has an open and comfortable feel and there's room a-plenty in all directions for people travelling in the front or the back.
Its square-ish design also means there's an abundance of carrying capacity in the boot, certainly more than enough to cope with the needs of an average family.
One of the greatest strengths of the latest X3 is combining of a great drive with an impressive degree of frugality, particularly in the big selling 2.0-litre diesel model.
However the 3.0-litre diesel engine available is also noticeably frugal - in standard guise there's just 3mpg difference on the combined cycle compared to the 2.0-litre equivalent - and it comes with the added bonus of extra power for those wanting their SUVs to be more ‘sport' than ‘utility'.
As well as modified suspension and uprated steering the M Sport's sportiness is also enhanced by some stand-out bodykit that includes purposeful side skirts, beefier bumpers, 19 inch alloys and some interior styling flourishes.
There are two 3.0-litre diesel M Sports but the M35d version sits right at the top of the range and offers a substantial power hike to 313bhp over the 258bhp delivered by the M30d version.
It might be marginally less frugal overall (there's a difference of just 1mpg) but it offers a blistering dose of power that's enough to put it on anyone's wish-list and deliver a driving experience that delights at every juncture.
It handles wonderfully, seems to have forgotten the fact it's an SUV when it comes to going through the bends and rides pretty sublimely too.
Outside of a sporty BMW X5 or X6, a Porsche Cayenne, or a supercharged Range Rover Sport it's hard to think of any other SUV that fully lives up to that acronym.