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Posted by portugalpress on February 22, 2018

Finally, the BMW X3 is truly a premium SUV you can enjoy 100% of the time. It was time BMW got it right.

The BMW X3 has never been the best-looking SUV BMW makes. The first generation was so weird it didn’t even look like it was designed by the same people who were building such beautiful 5 Series or 6 Series.

It wasn’t that great to drive either. Still, it sold well because the market was not overbooked with SUVs like it is today and there was not that much competition. BMW understood this segment was the future though, and for the second generation X3 everything was greatly improved.

That was 2010 and the competition from Mercedes, Audi and the likes was already more significant. That didn’t make the X3 a great car yet though. It was better proportioned, and it steered ok, but it wasn’t a beauty to look at and the driving experience lacked some of that “BMW-ness”.

But please don’t pity the X3 or BMW – they still sold 1.5 million of them … which leads us to where we are today. X3 number three and just look at it. It looks better than the X5. And the X1. And the X6. I think it even looks better than the new X4. In fact, the two best-looking SUVs made by BMW at the moment are the very, very recent X2 and the X3, which is a spectacular turn of events for the model.

The party trick of the design of the new X3 is that it doesn’t have a special feature or isn’t trying to look shocking or extravagant like so many SUVs on the market these days: it just uses its proportions the right way, with the right amount of sportiness and classical BMW lines to get it spot on. I like it.

It’s the same story inside. Man, this is one good-looking thing. Am I using too many adjectives here? Too much praise maybe? Well, I am sorry but it is hard for a car to surprise me these days, because I just drive so many they sometimes blur into one another. In fact, when I went to get the new X3, I had never seen one live and I thought: ‘ok, this is the least interesting SUV BMW makes, so what can I possibly say about it?’

And then BAM. It isn’t anymore. After five minutes of looking at it and driving it, I was thinking: why would you buy an X5? I am calmer now and the X5 still is a logical purchase, but the most important notion is that the X3 is no longer the BMW SUV you buy when you cannot get to an X5. It is a great car by its own right. Mind you, this coming of age of the X3 means it is actually bigger than the first 1999 X5. How are we supposed to find any parking spaces anymore?

Well, moving on. This is a BMW and the way it drives matters. The wheelbase has been extended by 50mm and weight is down 55kg - all good indicators. There is only one gearbox available, an eight-speed Steptronic automatic. The car I drove was the 3-litre diesel boasting an impressive 262 horse power. Those who can, please buy this version – it is the right engine for this car. Smooth and powerful, it suits the chassis like a glove.

Those who cannot, don’t be sad: the 2.0 litre diesel is still very, very good, and at €58,350, almost €20,000 cheaper than the bigger block. The gearbox is the same and so are the dynamics, which, for the first time in the X3, really do impress. It corners flat – at least in M trim with lowered suspension – and invites you to go for it. Be a man, brake a little later. Or a woman, of course, but a brave one. Make good use of the all-wheel drive system and it will be difficult to find a road that can upset the X3’s natural balance.

The ride quality is miles ahead of the last generation and, with such a nice cabin to travel in, the X3 is perfect for long-distance trips with the family, the dog, all the stuff you need and don’t need, and more. The boot helps: it holds 550 litres.

The new X3 feels like an expensive object and that is its greatest achievement. It moves the game on from its two ancestors in a way you don’t usually see anymore and it came as a total surprise how much I liked driving it around for four days. Is it the best car in its class? I am very inclined to say so.