The start point for the best source of fleet information
It looks like 2018 is going to be the year that X marks the spot for BMW. Three new X models, the X2, X4 and X7, will arrive in the German firm's showrooms over those 12 months. And before 2017 has even finished, the new X3 is arriving.
In reality, this latest BMW X model couldn't come fast enough. After all, it's currently boom time for crossovers in showrooms, and with a new Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60 already on sale, an older-generation X3 wouldn't have stood much of a chance in the market.
Having said that, it certainly went out with a bang rather than a whimper. 2016 was the X3's best-ever sales year and more than 1.5 million X3s have been sold globally since 2003. In the UK alone, 11,000 new X3s are expected to leave showrooms in 2018.
It's no slouch in terms of fleet appeal either. Despite a slight price rise compared with its predecessor, the higher standard specification - front and rear LED lights, leather interior and Pro Nav in the big-selling M Sport - has helped to boost the residual value.
On the engine front, while BMW will introduce a 2.0-litre petrol engine to the X3 in December, partly to counter any future anti-diesel legislation, there's no question which powerplants will top the sales charts. The 20d is predicted to account for a whopping 80% of all X3 sales, with the 30d taking another 15%, and the remainder taken by the petrol-engined models. Despite the headline-grabbing numbers of the new 360bhp M40i petrol flagship, that model is expected to account for a tiny number of sales.
That's no real surprise, given that the 20d boasts 132g/km emissions (28% BIK) and a 56.5mpg average fuel economy in SE form, while even the 265hp 3.0-litre returns 149g/km and 49.6mpg (31% BIK), sitting in the same tax bracket as the new 2.0-litre petrol with 163g/km emissions.
If there's one obvious missing item from the new X3's engine range, it's any form of electric or hybrid power. That will change, but not for some time, with a fully electric version expected in 2019 and a plug-in hybrid due for 2020.
On the road, the 30d is quiet and refined, and the X3 has taken a noticeable step forward in terms of how it feels on the road. There's much greater solidity than before, something that's underlined by the chunky steering wheel and the exceptional build quality inside.
If there's a downside to that solidity though, it's that, from behind the wheel, you feel every millimetre of its 5cm extra length. This is not a car that you'll be comfortable throwing around like a normal saloon. At times, it can feel rather top-heavy, an issue that's exacerbated by the weighty steering and the high driving position, even with the seat set to its lowest position.
That's a cruel irony in many ways, as the X3 actually has plenty of grip and a sharp turn-in into bends, making it easy to drive with confidence. The only downside is that the high-up feel doesn't allow you to fully take advantage of the grip. However, the pay-off is refinement, with a good ride quality, and road and wind noise well insulated from the cabin.
While the X3's on-road manners are undoubtedly a step up, the interior is a positive leap. Everything from the build quality itself, to the materials used and the clarity of the instruments, push the new X3 head and shoulders above its predecessor. It's also more accommodating, with easily enough space for 6ft-tall adults to sit one behind another, and a good sized boot - 550 litres with the seats up and 1,600 litres with them down.
Overall, the new BMW X3 is easily good enough to rival Audi's Q5 and Volvo's XC60, and arguably out-points them both on some elements. The lack of an immediate BIK-friendly hybrid model might put off some business buyers, but given that the old X3 enjoyed strong sales and this new version is a marked improvement in almost every way, you'd be a fool to bet against it.