On either version, the drive is firm and it is easy to forget that you are behind the wheel of an SUV – there’s none of the body roll that you’d expect. Nor is there the road and wind noise.
The interior is roomy – so much so that you struggle to find a good excuse to buy the bigger, even more expensive X5. It even has a slightly larger boot than its big brother.
One drawback is that the transmission tunnel means there is little foot space for a third back seat passenger. The other bugbear is that the rear seats don’t fold completely flat, which would be useful for those who want a 4x4 for workhorse reasons (yep, there are still a few of us left).
The X3 has slowly but surely worked its way into buyers’ affections since its launch in April 2004. For the balance of 2004 it had sales of 6,711, while the X5 took 8,421. The gap widened in 2005 with 7,536 X3s and 10,808 X5s sold, but through 2006 (until the end of September) that figure had levelled out to 5,393 X3 sales and 5,423 X5 sales. The UK accounts for 8% of all X3s sold.
Interestingly, BMW acknowledges that the X3 sells roughly on a 50/50 split between male and female buyers, but says that it expects the 3.0sd to appeal far more to men due to it being ‘practical yet sporty’.
Price: 2.5si (2.5): £30,485 3.0sd M Sport (3.0): £36,415
Engine 2.5: 2.5-litre petrol, 218hp @ 6,500rpm; 184lb ft @ 2,750-4,250rpm. 3.0: 3.0-litre diesel, 286hp @ 4,400rpm, 428lb ft @ 1,750-2,250rpm
Performance: 2.5: 0-62mph 8.5sec, top speed 130mph. 3.0: 0-62mph 6.6sec, top speed 149mph
Transmission: 2.5: six-speed manual 3.0: six-speed automatic with Steptronic
Efficiency: 2.5: 28.5mpg, 238g/km CO2. 3.0: 32.5mpg, 232g/km CO2
CAP RV 3yr/30k: 2.5: £13,225 (45%)
3.0: £15,850 (46%)
Strengths: Handles well, boot space
Weaknesses: The price tag
Opportunity: Steal sales from X5
Threat: Cheaper competition
USP: Car-like drive with off-road talent