BMW sold 12,008 cars in Malaysia last year. Predictably, the 3-Series was the biggest contributor with 3,363 units sold. But if you break the numbers down by variants, the single most successful model for the Bavarian carmaker last year was the X5 xDrive40e – its 2,900-unit total beating the 330e by over 750 cars in the sales charts.
At just RM390k a pop thanks to local hybrid incentives, the X5’s runaway success wasn’t entirely unexpected. Plug-in hybrid models accounted for more than half of BMW Malaysia’s total sales after all. But where does shift leave new models packing traditional petrol mills like the X3 xDrive30i?
Without any electrification to justify a tax break, the sole variant of the G01 X3 on sale in Malaysia is priced pretty high up at RM313,800. Sure, there’s the cost of a base-spec Honda Jazz separating it from the X5 Hybrid. But some buyers might still be tempted into footing the bill for a bigger and more powerful BMW SUV.
The X3’s Luxury Line specification doesn’t help its cause. M badges seem to wield more power than good old chrome on the showroom floor these days. But the cultured few who still appreciate the vintage appeal of chrome linings and wood inserts – indicators of motoring opulence once upon a time – will likely be more attuned to the new X3’s plush ride, fluid powertrain and practical cabin. These are the G01’s strongest suits in xDrive30i format. And they shine brighter in the curious absence of BMW Malaysia’s usual barrage of racy M Sport accessories.
Unlike the F48 X1, which is sold here as a FWD sDrive20i model, the new X3 retains its longitudinal engine layout. The norm for RWD cars, this setup seems to imbue a heightened sense of maturity and balance in the bigger SUV’s chassis. It gels nicely with the 252bhp two-litre turbo and eight-speed auto, a combo that manages to keep all four wheels highly motivated while doing well to keep the element of haste out of the cabin.
Few enthusiasts will welcome this disconnect, but it complements the X3’s stellar ride which delivers a calm yet confident drive, even on lengthy journeys along winding B-roads. Everyday practicality seems to be the priority here after all, and the Bimmer builds on that with a useful 550-litre boot secured by a ‘hands-free’ electric tailgate. The space expands to 1,600 litres with all seats folded down, which should appease even the fussiest of buyers planning to trade up from a Honda CR-V.
A BMW that excels on these pragmatic fronts is mighty impressive, but it comes at the cost of character. Don’t get us wrong, the X3 is an incredibly clever all-rounder. But an SUV is never going to be as charismatic as a 3-Series with its rear wheels on heat, no matter how well it drives. Surely you knew that already.
Not the most entertaining BMW on sale, but the X3 delivers the trifecta of comfort, practicality and refinement.
AMG Line outfit might woo some sports-minded customers away from BMW showrooms.
|Engine||1,998cc, 4-cyl-turbo, 252bhp, 350Nm|
|Performance||0-100kph in 6.3 secs, 240kph|
|Economy||7.6L/100km, 174g/km CO2|