The BMW X3 was one of the first mid-size luxury four-wheel drives on the market back in 2003, before the second-generation car refined the formula in 2010. Now, in the midst of stiff competition from all angles, BMW has whipped the covers off a better looking, more powerful third-generation X3.
Although it's an all-new car, you could be forgiven for thinking BMW has just given the old car a minor nip-and-tuck. Up front, the blocky snout of the outgoing model has been replaced with a more aggressive look, complete with headlamps to match the latest 5 and 7 Series. The body is 60 mm (2.4 in) longer, 10 mm (0.4 in) wider and a fingernail taller than the outgoing car, but the styling team has done a good job of hiding the extra bulk.
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The new shape isn't just prettier, it's also smarter. Shutters behind the front grille close to improve aerodynamics on the highway, before opening when the engine needs cooling air, while vents on the front flanks help cut turbulence in the wheel arches and contribute to the car's impressive 0.29 drag coefficient.
Along with the exterior, BMW has completely reworked the interior of the X3. A 10.2-inch touchscreen with gesture control is available, as is the excellent color heads-up display and fully digital instrument cluster from the 5 Series. Practicality is key in family cars like this, so the boot has grown to 550 L (19.4 cu.ft) with the rear seats in place or 1,600 L (56.5 cu.ft) with the seats folded.
Power will come from a choice of two diesel and three gasoline engines at launch, headlined by the X3 M40i. It'll be the first true "performance" model in the X3 lineup, aimed directly at the Audi SQ5 with 265 kW (360 hp) of power and 500 Nm of torque from a twin-turbo inline six. It'll hit 100 km/h (62 mph) in 4.8 seconds, or 0.3 seconds faster than its Audi rival.
The range-topping diesel engine is no slouch either, with 195 kW (265 hp) of power and a whopping 620 Nm of torque for a 5.8 second sprint to 100 km/h. All cars put their power to the road through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and range-topping cars come as standard with xDrive all-wheel drive.
As you'd expect of a modern German family car, a full range of active safety features is available. Auto-emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and rear cross-traffic alerts can all be fitted, as can the semi-autonomous cruise control system that debuted in the 5 Series last year. The central touchscreen can be used to browse the internet when the car is sitting still, and that 3G connection can also be used to provide live traffic updates and find parking spots.
The X3 will likely make its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. Pricing details are yet to be announced.