This Beemer the 'X3' has got it all and is my unrivaled 'best drive' of all the hundreds of cars I�ve tested on Thai tarmac through the years. Including the Audi's, the Alfa Romeo's, the Maserati Quattroporte (4-door), the Mercedes Benz Roadster, and the Lexus's, the Volvo's and the Volkswagen's. Not to forget the glorious Bentley Continental Flying Spur.
Storming 280 km/h on Bagna Trat elevated expressway on a Sunday at 11:35. But my choice is still - the 'Beemer' X3. Why? The BMW X3 'Wunderwagen' all wheel drive SUV (the BMW marketers prefer to call it 'SAV' (Sport Activity Vehicle). Has it all. This baby I could drive to the crack of doom or from Hat Yai (I don't dare to go any further south!) to Chiang Rai, Golden Triangle and back.
The looks are unmistakably Chris Bangle, ex BMW's California born design maestro who visited Bangkok some years ago. The Bayerische Motoren Werke Chris Bangle design elements are the flowing convex and concave lines, bulging wheel arches and the large sporty white headlights. Except the large oval, immortal BMW twin kidney grill that's the brand DNA. The BMW X3 is a downsized X5 (SAV)the 4.8 litre V8 monster big brother. (Sticker price: THB 9.6 million).
The new X3 comes loaded with a high tech German BMW 2.000 cc turbo Diesel engine mated to a silky smooth (no jerks!) Steptronic 6-speed box. Plenty of engine, energy reserves: 177 horse power and max torque 350 Nm at 1.750-3.000 rpm. This wunder Diesel propels the 1.8 metric ton X3 from 0 to 100 km/h in 10,2 seconds! Top speed of 205 kph. And a Xdrive four wheel drive system which electronically distributes the power between the front and the rear wheels. BMWs new diesel motors are based on the Efficient Dynamics philosophy which stands for environmentally friendly, low emission engines offering more performance, more driving pleasure, less emissions and outstanding fuel economy. The ED advertising campaign was called "torque of the town".
The X3 has also off road capabilities and mud crawling ability thanks to the Xdrive system and a 20,1 cm ground clearance and for the mountain off road rambling there's a (HDC) Hill Descent Control making steep slope go downs possible and safe. The thirst for fuel is not what you would expect. You'll get a whopping 14.3 kilometer per litre in combined city and highway mode. On a full tank you�ll drive 1.000 km or all the way from Bangkok to Chiang Mai (696 km) � with juice still fuel left in the tank upon arrival!
X3 on the highways and byways
On our Nakorn Nowhere hinterland road drive the X3 feels like a BMW 3-series sport sedan to drive but it has three typical SUV attributes: commanding view, high ground clearance and full size 17' alloy wheels. This is what you need when driving in the deep Thai hinterland. This is as good as it gets, German glycerin smoothness with tons of instant torque power on tap and inside the luxurious leather upholstered cabin which is almost cathedral quiet when the premium BMW in-car audio entertainment system is turned off. The rear seats are spacious offering a comfortable ride for up to five persons. On the curvy and demanding country roads between Surin and Buriram provinces in the night under the heavy rain the X3 offers an unforgettably exciting and safe driving experience; air bags everywhere, anti-skid control, anti-lock brakes and dynamic stability control, dynamic traction control, the works. The brakes are razor sharp and the ultra bright high-tech bi-xenon headlights means increased safety on a rainy night in Esarn. The X3 is a good place to be in.
I forgot the sand coloured three point seat belts with smooth texture and the so-easy-to-buckle buckle function. The devil is in the flawless interior details. Form and function and the scent - so delicious. So BMW - new car smell.
But does the BMW X3 sell?
The BMW compact crossover one of the best selling BMW�s ever. Over half a million units have rolled out of the global showrooms since the launch in 2004. On the streets of Los Angeles, sunny California the X3 is as common as the Toyota Camry sedan in Bangkok.
There are three reasons to buy the BMW X3 diesel: The engine, the engine and the engine. But of course also the intense driving pleasure and the 'Beemer' comfort, too. This is when the "talk of the town" becomes the 'torque of the town'.