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BMW X3 M Sport: The most dynamically sound SUV in its class

August 22, 2016 12:09 IST
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For everyday use, the lower, 20d variant does fairly well, is a lot more efficient, and costs nearly Rs 10 lakh less!

If you've lived in or been to a busy metro city, you'd know that big cars with mega horsepower rarely have space to let it rip. Which brings me to the concept of having just enough power that you can utilise. The car in question has exactly that. Enough power to make you grin, and enough presence to make bystanders give way. Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to the X3 M Sport!

The X3 has never been lauded for its design ever since it first broke cover more than half a decade back. The facelift, introduced last year, doesn't work to improve the situation either.

It cannot be called pretty or good-looking (that title goes to the Range Rover Evoque), but it definitely has presence. For starters, it looks and feels half-a-size larger than its rivals.

Second, in its M Sport avatar, elements such as the corona-ring daytime running lamps, the updated bumpers and the beefy proportions work well together and make for an intimidating design. That said, the wheels could've been much better and the tiny '///M' badge on the front fender looks like an afterthought.

The interiors drip quality and look similar to most other BMWs. The layout is straightforward, user-friendly, but ever so slightly cluttered. The interiors of our test car had black leather upholstery, paired with a black dash and wood trimmings, which looked super sporty.

The dash houses a large 8.8-inch screen that functions as a single-point interface for everything on the car. Mated to BMW's 'iDrive' system, the screen is your source for audio, navigation and everything in between, including the owner's handbook.

The system is controlled by a single rotary dial placed next to the gear lever, which takes time getting used to. Features include a 600W, 16-speaker Harmann Kardon sound system, heads-up display, handwriting recognition, and 20GB storage space for the music and maps.

The M Sport gets 'sports seats' as standard, which are possibly the most supportive seats around. Other than the slightly stiff cushioning that can get taxing for everyday commutes, the seats are superb and will hold you in place even if you go corner carving.

Space at the rear bench is more than adequate, even for a six-footer. There's generous amount legroom and headroom. That said, under-thigh support could have been slightly better. Also, it is practically a four-seater, thanks to the huge transmission tunnel that runs through the middle of the floor.

The 3.0-litre, six-cylinder engine develops an utterly usable 258PS of power and 560Nm of torque. This is channelled to the all four wheels, courtesy BMW's xDrive tech and the ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic gearbox.

What do the figures translate into for you and me? 0-100kmph in 5.9 seconds! Take a moment to let that sink in. A sub-six-second dash to hundred for a car that weighs close to two tonnes is astonishing.

There's no evident turbo lag, and the motor pulls cleanly from the get-go. A tip of the hat to the gearbox, which does a darn good job of selecting the right gear, almost every single time. Shifts are seamless, barely noticeable and, most importantly, happen just when you'd want them. We rarely used the steering-mounted paddle shifters – it's THAT good.

Unlike the Expedition and xLine trims, the M Sport gets a Sport+ mode apart from the usual Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport. It not only dials up the steering, throttle response and the suspension to eleven, but also turns down the traction control (DSC, in BMW talk) to let the tail slide every now and then.

When you are done with your tail-happy endeavours, you'd notice that the X3 is at ease trotting about the city. That said, we looked for every little gap during our stint with the M Sport to exercise the throttle.

While the motor is clearly the party piece of the M Sport, we do not like the gruff note it makes. At start-up, idle and even on the move, the noise feels crude and undeserving of a luxury SUV.

Ground clearance is a massive 211mm, which is plenty to tackle our pothole-ridden roads. The suspension is set up on the stiffer side, which takes a pinch out of the ride quality. The cabin isn't upset easily, but there's a lot of crashing and thudding, which can get annoying.

The upside is that it rewards you when you show the X3 M Sport a set of twisties. Speaking of which, the steering is nice and precise. It is slightly heavy at low speeds, but there's nothing more you'd like when out on the highway.

The weight feels just right, and there's enough feedback to let you push harder through a corner. There is a hint of body roll as well, but it isn't to a degree that'd scare you.

For anyone who likes some added muscle and drama with their SUVs, the X3 M Sport is a natural choice. All the added power is thoroughly usable inside the city and out on the highways.

It's the most dynamically sound SUV in its class, and there's nothing that'd come close in a straight-line sprint. In case you're planning on buying one, here's something to ponder upon: for everyday use, the lower, 20d variant does fairly well, is a lot more efficient, and costs nearly Rs 10 lakh less!

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