Road Impressions BMW X3 xDrive 2.0d

The boys were shooting the breeze, comfortably ensconced in Orca’s Pub & Grill, rehashing the good and bad of the week gone by and celebrating the fact it was Friday, when one mentioned he had heard the fishing was pretty darn good at Port St Johns.

We all nodded as was expected on hearing such news and he went on to say he had a friend who had a friend who owned a cottage and maybe he could call and see if we could use it and it was only 240 km away so we could leave early the next morning and be there in time for some good fishing in the afternoon and maybe even a bit of fishing on Sunday morning before we left to come back home.

The nodding accelerated like an M3 on launch control and then they looked at me. Me, because I was the one with a BMW X3 and that, everyone knew was a whole bunch more comfortable than a clapped out double cab.

Now, when it comes to fishing, I don’t. My wife lets me drink at home.

However, not being one to shy away from a road trip, I nodded like a Toyota ad and early the following morning, loaded with cooler boxes, enough beer to float the Nimitz, the requisite boerewors and chops and a whole bunch of fishing gear, we switched into Steppenwolf mode, got our motor running and headed off down the highway.

My friends are not small but the four-cylinder 1 995 cc diesel engine with eight-speed Steptronic transmission fitted to the X3 just did not even notice the weight. With 140 kW on tap at 4 000 r/min and maximum torque of 400 Nm available from 1 750 r/min, it simply gurgled along quite unphased.

The test unit came with adaptive cruise control fitted, making the more boring sections of the trip heading towards Kokstad a lot less stressful and a whole lot safer considering the notorious N2 in that area is often referred to as ‘Death Alley’.

While the lads waffled on about ‘spoons’ and ‘ties’ and sinker weights, I paid attention to the fuel consumption – in normal mode averaging 5,6 l/100 km and in Sport mode 5,7 l/100 km, both cruising at the requisite 120 km/h and including stop/start traffic or town driving, well village really.

This is now the third generation of the BMW X3 and, while exterior dimensions may be largely unchanged, it has a five-centimetre longer wheelbase, long bonnet and extremely short front overhang so the proportions emphasise the 50:50 distribution of weight between the front and rear axle.

At the front end, the kidney grille treatment and fog lamps feature a hexagonal design for the first time on a BMW X model.

There are three trim variants available and we had the xLine model that has radiator grille and other exterior details in Aluminium satin finish and specifically designed light-alloy wheels

The interior of the new BMW X3 follows BMW tradition and the xLine model features standard-fitted sports seats with cloth/leather upholstery.

The all-wheel drive system at the heart of the X3 is interlinked with the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) meaning the power split between all four wheels can be constantly varied to produce the best possible handling characteristics.

There is a reasonable road to Port St Johns but no, fishing is not a simply a matter of driving to a venue and offloading the gear – it involves driving past the venue to locate an obscure trail through the bush that (hopefully) will end up at a pristine part of the beach where nobody has ever been before.

Fortunately, the dune bush is soft and gentle and leaves the paintwork intact – for the rest, the X3 chugged through the soft sand with nary a misstep or signs of running of breath.

As far as the chassis technology is concerned, the third generation of the BMW X3 continues to rely on a double-joint spring strut axle at the front and a five-link rear axle.

BMW engineers succeeded in bringing about a considerable reduction in unsprung mass by fitting aluminium swivel bearings and lighter tubular anti-roll bars as well as optimising wheel location at the front.

Handling dynamics, straight-line stability and steering feel have all benefited from the uprated axle kinematics and the electric power steering system with Servotronic function.

Roll moment has been redistributed a long way to the rear and the rear bias of BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system further increased. Intelligent AWD management allows adjustments to be made as the driving situation demands while still maintaining maximum traction.

To maximise safety, meanwhile, Driving Stability Control (DSC) including anti-lock braking, Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), Automatic Differential Brake (ADB-X), Cornering Brake Control (CBC) and Hill Descent Control (HDC) are all standard kit.

The high ground clearance of 204 millimetres helps to ensure unhindered progress through the sand to the declared ‘ideal’ fishing spot. Why, I have no idea since nobody caught a thing and the only danger came from a rapidly depleting cooler box – including the water for the designated driver.

The approach angle (25,7°) and departure angle (22,6°) of the new BMW X3 together with its breakover angle of 19,4° create plenty of margin for negotiating steep sections or crests. Moreover, with a fording depth of 500 millimetres, the BMW X3 can tackle water crossings with ease as well – something suggested by one of the lads and quickly turned down, since the tide was coming in rapidly.

In addition to the iDrive Controller fitted as standard, specifying the Navigation system Professional opens up the possibility of touchscreen and gesture control – functions that have so far been exclusive to the current BMW 7 Series and new BMW 5 Series.

In addition to the adaptive cruise control the test unit was fitted with steering and lane control assistant, and Lane Keep Assist with side collision protection – all part of the optional Driving Assistant Plus safety package.

I am not a huge fan of either, considering the state of some of our roads and the appalling driving of many of their occupants, meaning the systems are hectically active and become rather intrusive.

So, lack of fish notwithstanding, the fishing trip provided good grounds (pardon the pun) to enjoy the new X3 but I cannot wait to get home….because then I can have a beer.

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Confidence remains

Confidence in the South African auto industry remains high with ongoing major investment projects in both plant and people – despite the concerns some have raised about ‘alternative’ facilities being opened in other African countries.

BMW Group South Africa  has put its best foot forward with the opening of its news R73-million Plant Rosslyn Training Academy able to host 300 apprentices a year.

In 1978, exactly 40 years ago, BMW Group South Africa opened its first training centre at BMW Plant Rosslyn. Development and empowerment of workers for the automotive and manufacturing sectors has been a focus ever since. Even in this pre-democracy era, the company was ahead of the times in training learners irrespective of their ethnic background.

Since then 2 000 people have been employed by BMW Plant Rosslyn, after successfully being trained at the Training Academy.

Tim Abbott, CEO BMW Group South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, says: “Global automotive production stands on the brink of momentous change with an increased focus on digitalisation and electrification. The workforce of tomorrow needs to keep pace with these trends. At BMW Group South Africa we are investing in the skills of the future.”

The facility focuses on both theoretical knowledge and practical application. Modern manufacturing skills such as robot programming, Advanced Computer Numerical Control (CNC) simulation and training on electric vehicles have been included in the new Academy.

An accredited Trade Test Centre has been incorporated into the building, allowing learners to achieve their trade qualification in-house. This functionality will also be extended to the public in the course of 2018.

Minister, Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize (Department of Higher Education and Training) adds:  “In June 2017, Cabinet approved the Human Resource Development Strategy towards 2030. One of the strategy programs talks to the skills that are produced based on the partnerships that can be encouraged within the country.  The country can only achieve this if companies such as BMW continue to encourage Work integrated Learning. Students from the TVET colleges will benefit immensely with such partnerships.”

The Training Academy will continue to provide skills development for existing BMW Group South Africa employees and managers. This includes training on the advanced technologies that will be used in the production of the new BMW X3, which will kick off within a couple of months.

In addition, the following programmes will be offered for external applicants:

Learnerships:

  • Mechatronics
  • Autotronics

Trades:

  • Millwright
  • Electrician
  • Fitter
  • Fitter and turner
  • Motor mechanic
  • Spray painter
  • Panel beater

Harsh inevitability

The inevitable is a harsh, and often, ugly thing and, faced with that pending prospect, petrolheads around the world are looking despairingly at the accelerating impetus of electrification.

Volvo made the first across the brand move by announcing all its new cars would feature some level of eletric power and now, Jaguar Land Rover has followed suit by putting 2020 as the date for some degree of eletric power on all its vehicles.

To add insult – as far as the petrolheads are concerned – to injury, Jaguar is re-creating the iconic E-Type once acclaimed by Enzo Ferrari as ”the most beautiful car in the world” as a fully electric entity called E-Type Zero.

I can understand why the original E-Type is the icon it is. As a self-confessed Jaguar fan I actually never liked the looks and with handling akin to that of a blacmange pudding, actively disliked the car. However, I feel as affronted as thousands of others at this pillaging of automtive history.

Really, Jaguar should have re-created the car with a rip-snorting V8 engine as its final ‘hurrah’ to the internal combustion engine.

Dr Ralf Speth, Jaguar Land Rover Chief Executive Officer, says: “Every new Jaguar Land Rover model line will be electrified from 2020, giving our customers even more choice. We will introduce a portfolio of electrified products across our model range, embracing fully electric, plug-in hybrid and mild hybrid vehicles.”

E-type Zero is based on a 1968 Series 1.5 Roadster and features a cutting-edge electric powertrain for 0-100 km/h in just 5,5 sec. It was engineered by Jaguar Classic at the company’s new Classic Works in Warwickshire, UK.

“With I-PACE we started with a clean sheet and engineered a bespoke, tailored, pure electric SUV from the ground up, creating a beautiful design with everyday practicality. It’s a performance SUV, it looks stunning, is great to drive and will be on sale next year,” he says.

The Jaguar FUTURE-TYPE is a vision for the car of 2040 and beyond. The fully autonomous virtual concept explores mobility for the connected world of tomorrow, where vehicles could be shared not owned.

“With Future Type’s interface, you can separately access your different digital orbits of work, family or play, dialling up what you do need, and dialling down what you don’t.

“At its heart is Sayer – the intelligent steering wheel that will revolutionise the way you live your life. Named after Malcolm Sayer, designer of the E-type, this steering wheel doesn’t just stay in your car – it lives in your home and becomes your trusted companion.

“Sayer is the first voice activated AI steering wheel that will be able to carry out hundreds of tasks. The advanced speech recognition software will allow it to answer your questions, connect you to the news, organise your travel and select your entertainment.

“Sayer knows what’s in your fridge and can even order your shopping or a pizza. You will never run out of milk again. It will be your go-to device. It is not just the ‘key’ to your car, it’s your membership card for our on-demand service club. A club which offers either sole ownership or the option of sharing the car with others in your community.

“For our customers, driving is about much more than getting from A to B. It’s about living life from A to Z. You will always be able to experience the sheer thrill of driving with the option to take the wheel. But this is a steering wheel like never before.”

Ian Callum, Director of Design, Jaguar says: “FUTURE-TYPE offers an insight into the potential for driving and car ownership in the future. It is part of our vision for how a luxury car brand could continue to be desirable, in a more digital and autonomous age,”

“Our FUTURE-TYPE Concept is an advanced research project looking at how we can ensure an on-demand Jaguar will appeal to customers in 2040 and beyond. Whether it’s commuting to work, autonomously collecting children from school or enjoying driving yourself on the weekend in the countryside, if there’s a choice of on-demand cars driving around city streets, we need to ensure customers desire our 24/7 service over our competitors.”

Jaguar Land Rover is already testing driverless cars in the real world. Autonomous Urban Drive can enable a vehicle to operate without a driver through a city, obeying traffic lights as well as negotiating T-junctions and roundabouts.

“Designed and developed in the UK, this research technology is already in use in a Range Rover Sport and takes us a step closer to achieving level four autonomy in Jaguar Land Rover’s future vehicles within the next decade,” says Speth.

“The new Range Rover Velar is designed to take you further. Enhance your life. It contains intelligent technology in the form of its quad core processor; the brains behind the beauty of the Velar.

“The Touch Pro Duo infotainment system incorporates two high-definition 10-inch touchscreens. We call this tailored technology Blade – your own digital butler. You can interact with your car from anywhere in the world. You can start it with your smartphone, lock or unlock it, locate it, check your fuel levels or even warm the cabin up before you get in.

Blade learns your daily drive, anticipates your needs, serves what you want, when you want it… but never intrudes.”

Fully electric automobiles is the inevitability. It is something we must accept and as much as I cry my petrolhead tears into my pretzels, I do understand it is the way of the future.

However, it is time to stop equating electric cars with ‘saving the planet’. While the end product may be mostly emission free, the production process still has a very long way to go and until this is entirely free of any emissions or harmful waste pre, during and post production the end product is not going to fix our environmental problems.

Hell, even horses are not entirely emission free!

That said, electric cars have madegreat strides in terms of practicality – and they still have a way to go!

The boring vanilla Nissan Leaf has got with the programme and the recently launched revise is a dynamic looking car that can be confidently taken onto public roads with the knowledge onlookers will not be snickering behind their hands as it passes.

“The new Nissan Leaf drives Nissan Intelligent Mobility, which is the core brand strategy for Nissan’s future,” says Hiroto Saikawa, president and chief executive officer of Nissan. “The new Nissan Leaf, with its improved range, combined with the evolution of autonomous drive technology such as ProPILOT Park, and the simple operation of the e-Pedal, strengthens Nissan’s EV leadership as well as the expansion of EVs globally. It also has core strengths that will be embodied by future Nissan models.”

The new Nissan Leaf offers a range of 400 km, allowing drivers to enjoy a safer and longer journey. The new e-powertrain gives the new Nissan Leaf 110 kW of power output and 320 Nm of torque, improving acceleration and driver enjoyment.

When activated, the car’s ProPILOT Park technology takes control of steering, acceleration, braking, shift-changing and the parking brake to automatically guide it into a parking spot. It enables the driver to park safely and simply, even when parallel parking.

The new Leaf’s revolutionary e-Pedal technology transforms the way people drive. It lets drivers start, accelerate, decelerate and stop by increasing or decreasing the pressure applied to the accelerator. When the accelerator is fully released, regenerative and friction brakes are applied automatically, bringing the car to a complete stop. The car holds its position, even on steep uphill slopes, until the accelerator is pressed again.

The new Nissan Leaf’s design includes a low, sleek profile that gives it a sharp, dynamic look. Familiar Nissan design features include the signature boomerang-shaped lamps and V-motion flow in the front. The flash-surface grille in clear blue and the rear bumper’s blue molding identify the car as a Nissan EV.

For customers who want more excitement and performance, Nissan will also offer a version with more power and longer range at a higher price in 2018 (timing may vary by market).

The new Nissan Leaf will go on sale in October in Japan. The model is slated for deliveries in January 2018 in the US, Canada and Europe. It will be sold in more than 60 markets worldwide.

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