BMW after the earlier launch of the much appreciated 650i have finally revealed another launch of theirs for the year 2011 and this is their SUV, the BMW X3 in India. Not only was the BMW X3 for the Indian market, long in the tooth but it also had a hard time competing against the likes of the Audi Q5 and stuff. For quite some time, there were news of a new X3 to come in however we didn’t know that it would be this early. Yes, the BMW X3 in India is going to be launched soon and we ended up taking a test drive of this new Bavarian beauty. It has filtered down to such a thing that just like the Q5 is called the baby Q7, the X3 is also called the baby X5. Now after looking at it, we cannot understand why it shouldn’t be called so. The footprint as also the looks mirror the X5 which was launched in 2010. It may be a deliberate thing or something that BMW doesn’t have a platform for its own SUVs. Neither does it borrow it from any other manufacturer. Infact, they use the same platform as their road going saloons like the 3 or even the 5 series.
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A quick review of the 2011 BMW X3 in India shows that you would love this vehicle at the first sight. Well, not exactly in the same ballpark as one would love the Q5 but yes the love would grow over the term that you have the X3 with you. The head lamps are a different hue than the earlier X3 and even different than the ones found in the X5. Infact, they are more like the ones in the 7 series but in the X3’s design, carry a fresh element. The deeply nacelled fog lamps are located just below the head lamps and signify that this SUV is a soft roader after all. We failed to understand the reasoning behind this since the fog lamps so close to the head lamps doesn’t mean anything. The air dams lend a knurlish look to the overall design of the car. Aluminium skid plates are available below the air dam to support the feel of this car. The bonnet is a mix of mish mash design cues which end up lending more swirls on it. As for the wheels, they are 18 inch ones with the twisted alloy design to them carried over from the older car. The door outlines are marked with chrome. As for the wing mirrors, there is nothing new about their design and are carried over from the old car. From the rear, the X3 cannot be missed for anything else other than being a X3. Moreover only a single tail pipe dilutes its sporty intentions and also the BMW brand image. On the rich looking black bumper, there are parking sensors embedded.
Immediately apparent are the airy feel from the previous gen car. We had noted earlier that the previous generation car had a somewhat cramped interiors while the new one feels like it is much bigger in size and dimensions. The dashboard width makes this SUV feel like its much bigger than it actually is. However use of darker color materials apart from the crisscrossed fake wood used near the gear lever detract from the luxury feel. The steering wheel is a new unit and looks like the same one from the BMW 7 series. For the driver, the cabin may seem a tight fit since the swooping arc of the door pads intrude into leg space. As for the front passenger, he would be much more comfortable. The Idrive unit isn’t a pop out one and is instead fixed into the central dash. However the dual zone climate control system has smaller buttons and ones which would certainly require that eyes be taken off from the road to operate them. The seats have a fantastic support to them. Moving over to the back reveals that only two passengers can be seated at a time since the middle transmission intrusion is so much that squeezing in a 3rd passenger would be crime. Plus, there are dedicated AC vents for each of the passengers. However, just like the X1, the X3 also has a low seating arrangement which means that under thigh support is a bit compromised. However what isn’t compromised is the boot space. It is a huge 510 liters further supported by the split seats arrangement. This makes the X3 very versatile in its nature. Build quality as always is top notch and we were hard pressed to see any uneven panel gaps and stuff. The materials felt soft to touch with a nice grained feel to them. However what was disappointing was that the throw of air from the AC vents. Its actually high time that BMW actually change the design of the vents and also upgrade the aircon compressor. We had duly noted this in our earlier aircon tests conducted for SUVs as also sedans that BMW ones rank the lowest as far as cooling the cabin is concerned.
As discussed earlier, the BMW SUVs are built on the same platform as their sedans and hence they have the same agility as their sedan counterparts albeit with a bit of compromise. Compromise that a usual driver on his commute everyday would hardly notice. First up is the new electric nature of the steering wheel which is now being widely adopted by other BMWs across the range. This new steering wheel however loses out on the feel that it was known for earlier and at the same time increasing fuel efficiency. All the 4 wheels here have independent suspension just like the way BMW cars have. The monocoque construction and the perfectly balanced body ensure that these cars are good around a corner. Moreover the straight line stability is commendable for a tall car. Infact, it felt rock solid on the short drive that we were treated for. The latest generation Idrive system allows one to select between the three driving modes namely Comfort, Normal and Sports. By the way, the 2011 BMW X3 in India would come with an all wheel drive system codenamed as Xdrive in BMW speak. There is satellite navigation provided for as well. The X3 felt reasonably comfortable as far as the ride quality goes in the first two modes however for the Sports mode, the ride is definitely on the back breaking sides. However the steering response sharpens in this mode and hence it delivers the all important sporty feel. We, however, missed out on the earlier sharp response from the chassis feel of the 2010 BMW X3. As far as NVH goes, the BMW X3 is a quiet beast, even quieter than the Audi Q5. This is considering that the X3 was available with the choice of a single diesel engine that we got to drive. Infact the ticking rpm meter was the only giveaway that this car’s engine was actually running.
BMW didn’t exactly put in the specifications of the engine configurations that would be coming to India. However we can safely say that the 2.0 liter turbo diesel would definitely make the cut to the Indian market. Like the way Audi uses its 3.0 liter diesel engine in various power outputs, the BMW X3 also makes use of its 1995 cc engine which has 4 cylinder. This same engine powers the BMW X1 which has a less weight configuration than the X3. However, save for the punchy mid range, there was nothing to speak about the bottom or top end power. However the engine pulls eagerly to its redline without much increment in the power stakes. This makes one doubt if the engine has been mated with a CVT. Instead it has been mated with the 8 speed auto transmission which is there in the 5 series and also 7 series sedans. By the way, the engine makes 181 Bhp of power and 380 Nm of torque from as low as 1750 rpm. The transmission is a gem which downshifts when needed and also upshifts on the go. The power delivery isn’t peaky as well and this aids in the manner in which the car can be driven in traffic. The visibility all around is good and for the rear portions, BMW have provided a reverse camera and also rear parking sensors. 0-100 kmph times cannot be quoted however expect it to beat the time of the outgoing model and moreso since it weighs in 35 kgs lower than the earlier model.
BMW have incorporated the start stop technology in the new 2011 BMW X3 in India. This has enabled the car to post significant fuel gains as also run cleaner and leaner. The brakes have been provided with energy regeneration capabilities. The all wheel disc brakes are coupled with ABS, EBD and also Electronic Stabilization Program. As far as safety goes, it is right upto the mark as far as BMW standards are considered. 4 air bags and stuff complete the package. As for fuel efficiency, BMW are claiming an overall 12.2 kmpl in standard conditions.
BMW India have managed to get the correct product in the Indian market. With the launch of the BMW X3, the Audi Q5 with its 2.0 liter TDI engine will definitely have a tough competition. It remains to be seen if the much established Audi Q5 can stand its might against the Bavarian onslaught. The Audi Q5 has the same brand power which the X3 also possess. Whilst the earlier X3 was down on cabin space, the new one improves on that and now is at par with the Q5’s interior dimensions. Dynamically, the X3 is far ahead of the Q5 however on the ride quality front, it is the Q which trumps the X. However the X may be lacking in the number of engines that it can provide since as of now, only the 2.0 liter diesel has been confirmed. The launch date has been scheduled for around September 2011. The dates are yet to be confirmed. Prices are supposed to hover around the Rs 35-40 lakhs mark. The earlier BMW X3 price in India would definitely be eclipsed by the new model. Watch this space for more information.