If there’s one area in which BMW has made good progress with the X3, it’s the ride quality.

The original was found wanting in this regard, although its replacement improved matters greatly, and now this latest model is even more accomplished.

Richard Lane

Road tester
Strong, robust handling balance and effective torque vectoring let you open the X3’s taps early in tighter bends

Indeed, normally we might dissuade you from specifying 19in wheels – as fitted to our M Sport test car – but in this case there’s still a good chunk of Michelin sidewall on offer so the X3’s ability to absorb ruts and coarse surfaces remains unsullied.

There’s grip, too, meaning the suspension has a solid base on which to operate and can by and large elude the lateral see-sawing sensation you sometimes get when tall but under-tyred SUVs struggle for purchase with the road.

The result is a deep-seated composure that’s impressive even for a marque that, with the first-generation X5, proved SUVs really could do ‘handling’.

A Q5 riding on air suspension isolates its occupants from the road better still, as does a like-for-like Mercedes-Benz GLC, but in doing so, both sacrifice the perception apparent in the BMW that you can barrel into bends as keenly as if you were in a much lower, lighter car.

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In short, BMW has struck a good balance with this car. And its optional variable damper control, which alters the suspension characteristics through three modes and was fitted to our test car, adds plenty of dynamic breadth of ability.

For keen drivers, the X3 sits between the class’s more talkative options (think F-Pace, Stelvio) and the resolutely numb Q5 in how it communicates the road through its steering, although any feel at all is gratefully received.

Our test car also featured BMW’s variable-ratio steering system, which makes the X3 effortlessly wieldy during low-speed manoeuvres but can feel unnatural if you’re attempting to neatly splice a tightening radius.

It’s probably worth having, if only because it makes the car feel usefully small at times and, on the balance of duties, it will likely help more often than hinder.

The X3’s handling satisfies moderately high expectations when it’s driven quickly. With smarter directional responses and tauter body control than the average medium-sized SUV, and a fairly tenacious grip level that maintains decent inter-axle balance even when leant upon for hard cornering, the car feels like the natural choice of a keener driver – albeit one who expects the comfort and isolation of a typical SUV.

An Alfa Romeo Stelvio and a Porsche Macan feel markedly more dynamic handling prospects still, in other words, but neither has the roundedness, refinement or maturity of this BMW.

The X3 has fine stability, with its electronic stability and traction controls on and off. Leave them on, dialled back to Sport+ and Traction modes, and you’ll find them unobtrusive until they’re really needed. But don’t expect classic BMW rear-drive throttle-on handling adjustability if you turn them off.

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