BMW's line of luxury crossovers has always tried to stand out from the others offering in their segment. For starters, they are dubbed "Sports Activity Machine" as opposed to "Utility" by the German company, who argue the sheer performance of their X-Line put them into a class of their own.
Because of that, while other automakers generally focus on advanced features and ride comfort, the self-proclaimed makers of "ultimate driving machine" put priority on marking their cars fast and fun to drive.
This brings us to the X3, a five-seat luxury crossover that falls between the X1 and X5. We took one out to test BMW's claims of performance, and much to our pleasant surprise, it delivered.
On point appearance
In the official brochure, BMW describes the X3 as having a "dynamic presence and typically focused expression". Looking at the car in person, they have a point.
Our press unit came with the M-sport appearance package, which includes M series inspired front and rear bumpers, light-alloy wheels, and a few interior upgrades.
The Front fascia of the M-sport is nearly identical to the one found on the X3 M40i, except for the grille, which is finished in brushed aluminium as opposed to gloss black. The front V-base can be clearly seen through the proportionally accurate grille, a stubble reminder that this car is plenty sporty for its segment.
The 19-inch M-badged double-spoke wheels are wrapped in Michelin latitude sport 3 tyres, which according to BMW staff, lifts the car 8.5-inch off the ground. Parking sensors are dotted all around the car's body, along with a few faux vents.
Being hybrid, the charging port door for the 11.15 kWh battery pack can also be found on the side, in between the left front tire and passenger door.
Despite being a 4-cylinder hybrid, the X3 comes with functional twin exhaust tips. On top of which is a pair of distinct LED tail lights, which extends to the automatic cargo hatch. I doubt the single wiper blade mounted on the hatch will see much use, thanks to the extended rear spoiler covering most of the glass from elements.
What's it like inside
The cabin of our X3 was finished in sensatec Tacora red with fine-wood oak inserts. In typical BMW fashion, the centre stack is slightly tilted, toward the M-series specific three-spoke steering wheel. Behind it is a fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster that can be configured to display a plethora of information.
Moving back to the centre stack, the 12.3-inch infotainment system supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as simple Bluetooth in case you just want to play music through the 6 speaker audio system. Underneath which are the controls for the dual-zone automatic climate controls, as well as the volume knob as well as eight programmable memory buttons.
For some odd reason, BMW found it prudent to constantly remind their customers what car they are driving. There are four large "X" debossed on each of the door cards, as well as a "X3" at the bottom of the centre stack. Perhaps BMW was better off reminding its occupants that they are protected by 6 airbags and the car's 5-star NHTSA safety rating.
The large panoramic sunroof lets in plenty of sunlight inside the cabin. For particularly sunny days, however, you can opt to cover it up with an anthracite sunshade. For nighttime illumination, all seats have access to dedicated map lights and an ambient lighting system to set the mood.
The powered front seats feature large bolsters, with the driver's seat having the added luxury of memory controls. Both rows of passengers have access to cup holders and USB charging ports, with rear-seat passengers being treated to dedicated AC vents with digital temperature control.
The cargo area has an additional "hump" presumably to make room for the batteries. Storage space is rated to be 450 litres, which can be bumped up to 1,500 litres with the seats folded down. In addition to the floor, there is also a bag hook on the right side of the bed along with a 12-volt socket.
How does it move?
Like a standoff missile off a bomber.
Pressing the pedal, the vehicle accelerates normally for about a second, and then the electric motor kicks in. Then it's a meteoric five and half-second travel to triple-digit that will leave you breathless and grinning like an idiot.
The adaptive suspension comes to play at high speed, while the above-mentioned strut bars minimise chassis flex during spirited turns. The steering feels also adapts to driving style, from floaty to direct as the car picks up speed.
Despite weighing around 2-tons, the brakes of the X3 are incredibly proficient at bringing the car to a quick stop. With BMW's characteristic chassis balance ensuring the declaration is smooth and gradual.
The X3 is a car with a dual personality. On one hand, it's a luxurious crossover with great tech and excellent build quality. But thanks to its adaptive suspension and hybrid powertrain, it's also a speed demon, especially in the context of our country's automotive scenario.
It's not for everyone. But for those who are in the market for a family car, and can't get the 530e because their better half insists on a crossover, this is one of the best alternatives.
This review was originally published in the March issue of Wheels magazine. Click here to order yours.