BMW X3 xDrive 30d

BMW X3, front
BMW X3, front
BMW X3, front
BMW X3, front
BMW X3, side
BMW X3, interior
BMW X3, rear
BMW X3, rear

THERE's a bit of misrepresentation going on here.

Quite a few Sports Utility Vehicles - you know, those boxy things that are appearing everywhere - are anything but sporting.

Sure, they swallow up loads of luggage and some can even scrabble their way up mountainsides. Others are never challenged beyond the ramp to a Waitrose car park.

But when it comes to neck-jerk acceleration or bend-hugging cornering many are left wanting, and certainly don't merit the adjective ‘sporting'.

There are, however, a select few that blend ‘sporting' and ‘utility' into a truly harmonious theme. One such example is the BMW X3, recently heavily refreshed both in terms of coachwork and vigour.

If you step up from the best selling 2.0-litre diesel to the X3 3.0d you get a taste of genuine sports car performance without losing a jot of practicality and very little in the way of economy either.

The third generation model retains the angular, upright shape but has more cabin space. In fact, it's marginally roomier than the original X5 model. Obvious visual giveaways are the larger grille and new tail light clusters.

Under the bonnet is a three-litre turbo diesel that pumps out a substantial 261bhp and packs oodles of torque for mid-range overtaking. Floor the right pedal and it hits 62mph in under six seconds - that's Porsche Boxster territory.

It is not only straight line speed that the X3 majors on. Unlike a lot of crossovers and high riders, the BMW can be hustled confidently through the curves with little body roll and ample adhesion. True, the ride at low speeds is a trifle harsh for a passenger vehicle, but many will feel it's a minor pitfall worth putting up with.

With a perfect 50-50 weight distribution, it remains composed and well planted on the road at speed. Directional changes and emergency manoeuvres are dealt with confidently. Full time four wheel drive copes easily with slippery conditions or loose stones.

The eight-speed automatic gearbox complete with steering wheel paddles is quick thinking and smooth, perfectly matching the X3's eager nature.

Despite the impressive pace, economy is surprisingly good. The official figure is 48.7mpg and most users will easily notch up around the 35mpg mark in real life conditions. Emissions of 153g/km mean reasonable BiK tax for company drivers.

The six cylinder engine is smooth and quiet at speed, though can be a tad grumbly on start up at first.

The roomy cabin is far from utilitarian. With fine leather, robust switchgear and high grade plastic mouldings for the fascia, there's a sense of luxury and indulgence. Space - both legroom and headroom is plentiful and the boot can swallow up 550 litres of luggage before the split rear seats are folded down. The load platform is fairly low so there's no problem lifting in heavy cargo.

Seats are large and comfortable with ample adjustment and the steering wheel moves in and out and up and down, so it's easy finding the right driving position.

FAST FACTS

BMW X3 xDrive 30d

Price: £44,380

Mechanical:261bhp, 2,998cc, 6cyl diesel engine driving four wheels via automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 149mph

0-62mph: 5.8 seconds

Combined MPG: 48.7

Insurance Group: 40

C02 emissions: 153g/km

Bik rating: 32%

Warranty:3yrs/60,000 miles

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