The BMW X3 is a bit of a local hero, as the company likes to call it. It is produced at its Rosslyn plant since April 2018, and reached the 200 000th milestone in August 2021. Additionally, 95% of the allocation is exported to just under 30 markets globally.

Last week I attended the local media launch for the refreshed BMW X3. The day started at the xDrive Park in Waterfall City, where we drove in pairs to the Pilanesberg National Park. The two models on offer for us to sample were the X3 20d and X3 M40i. The drive was fairly relaxed as it was about 2.5 hours away from Johannesburg. And then a drive back, with a stop at the Cradle Boutique Hotel for lunch.

What’s new on the exterior
The kidney grille has been redesigned and appears larger, and the LED headlights are now flatter; overall the front apron has been refreshed to a single-piece frame. The tail lights have also been redesigned, you will notice horizontal lines, which is probably the easiest way to tell it apart if you spot one in traffic. The tailpipes are flush-fit on the underbody. The M sports package has M double bars on the kidney grille; “two-teeth” exhaust pipes in black; an exclusive 21″ M light allow wheel as standard and aerodynamic M exterior mirrors. There are now 8 colours available to choose from.

A revised interior
The centre console on the X3 is now the same as the 4 Series, characterised by the large 12.3″ infotainment display, and a digital instrument cluster that is standard. It also has standard sport seats, automatic climate control with 3-zone controls, and a newly designed control island in the centre console. It has a clean design, everything positioned feels ergonomic to the driver; all within easy reach. Though, you can expect a lot of buttons beneath that huge centre screen.

What tech can you expect?
It’s refreshing to see the 12.3″ infotainment system, Live Cockpit Professional, come standard on the X3, including the support of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It has a fully digital display network, like a high-res instrument cluster behind the steering wheel that you can navigate directly on the wheel. The M40i has the head-up display as standard. The system runs on BMW’s Operating System 7, featuring iDrive and the signature touch controller.

BMW says a significant update is its cloud-based Maps that has faster and dynamic route calculation based on real-time traffic delivered at short intervals, however, our mapping system couldn’t pick up the accommodation we stayed at.

It has wireless smartphone integration for Apple CarPlay and as much as I wanted it, alas the new X3 is not a model that supports Apple’s Digital Key. Also the global chip shortage has affected certain things available in the car. There is also wireless Android Auto that can feed through your Google Maps directions on the head up display.

It also features BMW’s Intelligent Personal Assistant, which I didn’t get to test. You can use voice commands in the form of naturally spoken instructions (not following a syntax like previous-gen tech) such as asking it to regulate the air-conditioner, open and close the windows, change driving modes. It can also read out News updates.

It also supports over-the-air (OTA) software updates that will also support new services in future, improved vehicle features, and the integration of additional features at a later date. BMW says options that can be retrofitted digitally is the high beam assistant and BMW Drive Recorder.

The new BMW ConnectedDrive Packages
As mentioned above, the vehicles will bring new features through software updates and BMW has introduced new ConnectedDrive packages for this. I’m told that packages available to you are linked to the VIN number.

Connected Package Connected Package Plus Connected Package Professional
BMW Online BMW Online BMW Online
Online Speech Processing Online Speech Processing Online Speech Processing
BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant
Remote Services Remote Services Remote Services
USB Map Update USB Map Update
Real Time Traffic Information Real Time Traffic Information
Concierge Service
R1000 per year
(12 month duration)
R2000 per year
(12 month duration)
R3500 per year
(12 month duration)

BMW will offer its own digital store for all vehicles where drivers can buy or rent as they feel like. Features that can be tested on a trial basis for R1 for a duration of a month include: Remote Services (control and monitor with smartphone), Real Time Traffic Info, BMW Online (integrated SIM), Concierge Services, and Online Speech Processing.

Services that be bought once-off: Remote Engine Start – R7300; Adaptive M Suspension – R7200; Iconic Sounds Sport – R2650; Apple CarPlay Wireless – R5400; USB Map Update – R700.

The models I drove at launch
I drove the M40i on the way from Johannesburg to Pilanesberg, and the 20d on the way back; I usually would have preferred to do it the other way around but thoroughly enjoyed the drive there. The 3L turbocharged M40i has an output of 285kW and 500Nm of torque; a top speed of 250km/h and goes from 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds. The 2L turbodiesel 20d has an output of 140kW and 400Nm of torque; a top speed of 213km/h and goes from 1-100km/h in 8 seconds. Very different models to give a feel of the line-up, which also includes the 20i; 18d; and 30d.I loved driving the M40i and my leg was a lot of tarred roads on the highway, and having to make sure I wasn’t going above the speed limit on the highways. It was comfortable, the cabin wasn’t loud and it sounds great – as any BMW fan would agree. I didn’t and couldn’t have driven it efficiently.The diesel on the other hand was a good drive too, and it wasn’t as loud, because I felt it didn’t have the typical “diesel feel”, however the difference in power was obvious (the reason I wanted to drive this first), so moving onto the M40i would have felt like a natural upgrade. The diesel would make the most sense if you’re trying to be fuel efficient.The car itself felt familiar in the usual BMW way, with a bunch of upgrades on the inside, making it more modern, though it did have a substantial amount of physical buttons, which I think SA consumers would prefer. Not many seem keen for a touch interface, people like touching and fiddling with buttons. It’s a natural instinct to adjust the air-conditioner this way.PricingBMW is a well-loved brand in SA, and consumers are going to love this local hero. I liken it to buying an iPhone, you know it’s dependable, comfortable and easy to find your way around. If you are looking to buy a vehicle in this price bracket, other contenders include Jaguar E-Pace and VW Touareg.

BMW sDrive18d R895,658
BMW sDrive20i R939,798
BMW xDrive20d R997,176
BMW sDrive18d M Sport R935,658
BMW sDrive20i M Sport R979,798
BMW xDrive20d M Sport R1,037,176
BMW xDrive30d M Sport R1,210,764
BMW M40i R1,415,042