The character of this 20d engine – codenamed B47 and first seen in the previous-generation 5 Series – hits something of a sweet spot for cars of this type, although it’s not perfect.

Paired with the eight closely spaced ratios of the short-shifting Steptronic transmission, it’s nicely refined under load and develops enough accessible torque to guarantee that progress remains unflustered and discreet almost all of the time. It is, in a word, amenable.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
Chassis is unflappable even when you seek to unsettle it on a trailing throttle around the off-camber corners

Engaging? Not so much. Peak twist of 295lb ft arrives between 1750rpm and 2500rpm, soon after which the eight-speed auto is keen to move up a gear and drop the engine speed back into its comfort zone.

Even in manual-shift mode, our test car would hold on until only 4800rpm or so, which is well short of the indicated 5500rpm redline and suggestive of a dearth of efficiency in the higher reaches of the rev range, despite the use of a variable-geometry turbocharger. It’s an engine tuned for the workhorse demands of its target audience, certainly.

With that torque, the X3 is an on-paper match for the Q5 2.0 TDI, although it is a way short of the flooding 347lb ft you get in the 2.2-litre Stelvio diesel.

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Our road test data (collected in similar conditions) indicates that the Alfa Romeo is substantially quicker, barrelling to 60mph in 6.8sec compared with the 8.3sec of its Audi counterpart.

Still, since it matched the sprinting prowess of the equivalent Q5 almost exactly to 60mph, 100mph and over a standing quarter mile and easily outstripped the mark of a Jaguar F-Pace, the X3 can’t be considered slow.

With all-wheel drive, limited power and plenty of tyre contact patch through which to drive, traction was never a problem for our test car, even in slightly slippery conditions.

The X3 was also the equivalent of an adult passenger heavier than its Italian rival on our scales, which will have had a hand in its slight touring-economy deficit to the Stelvio (49.7mpg plays 48.8mpg).

That still makes for a cruising range of almost 650 miles dispatched with minimal fuss and – thanks to the acoustic glazing of the windscreen and, optionally, the front side windows – very little in the way of wind noise. A class-leading drag coefficient of 0.29 undoubtedly helps in this regard.

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