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.