Words by Jay Kana

The day my younger sister got her first car, a 2005 Altima, she put diesel in the tank—but it takes regular gas. I could include some quotes from her and my parents that night, but let’s keep this PG. A few hundred dollars later, it makes for a funny story at family get-togethers.

The 2015 BMW X3 xDrive28d I recently tested was the diesel model. It says, in large letters on both the gas gauge and gas cap: D-I-E-S-E-L. It’s clear that BMW doesn’t want any mistakes in filling the tank.

Right off the bat, I’m going to apologize to the good folks at BMW Canada for racking up a bit too much mileage on the X3. They said “enjoy the vehicle,” and that’s what I did, but c’mon, you gave me a wonderfully crafted luxury sport activity vehicle (SAV) for a week and that diesel engine gave me tremendous mileage plus it was cheaper than regular gas. I couldn’t help myself!

I should also apologize for doing nearly the same thing to the 228i when I did my rock ’n’ roll road trip to Sarnia and back. Sorry, BMW—I guess your cars are simply great for road trips. And I do love a good road trip—the sing-alongs (well, drum-alongs on the steering wheel for me—you don’t want to hear me sing), the food/bathroom breaks in small towns, the excitement of going somewhere new. Whether it was my first car (a 1987 Volvo 240 DL station wagon—form a line to the left, ladies) or both my 2005 and 2010 Mazda 3 hatchbacks, the time in the car was always enjoyable. I once drove from Mississauga to Charlottetown and those were my favourite days ever spent in a car.

I had a work road trip planned to London for a weekend in October and it coincided with my week with the X3. While my travel companion and I had a blast in London, I can say that in the majority of my 30-plus years of road trips, the clich? holds true: it’s about the journey, not the destination—even if that journey involves getting my 2002 Elantra written off after hitting a deer in Scotrun, Pennsylvania. Yikes. For this exercise, the X3 was a noble chariot. The seats were supportive and comfortable, the centre console/iDrive system was easy to navigate and the dashboard had a clean, modern layout, which is a staple of recent BMWs. While London isn’t that far away, there’s always traffic on the 401, and that lengthens even the shortest of drives.

I’m fond of smaller cars, especially hatchbacks. I find them the most practical and BMW hasn’t disappointed me with this X3. I really like the way it’s been presented to this consumer segment, and starting at $45,000, it’s in the ballpark for a luxury model SAV.

There are lots of great features in the X3 to make nearly any driver happy. I love natural light, so the panorama sunroof was a great addition and came with the premium package. While there’s a distinct sound difference between gasoline and diesel engines (diesel is noisier), the engineers at BMW have managed to deliver minimal cabin noise at both high and low speeds. And with 600 glorious watts of crystal-clear sound surrounding me, I could practically hear Jeff Buckley blink during “Hallelujah,” or, on the other end of the sound spectrum, feel my body shake as if I were in the front row of an AC/DC show.

I toured around London, Port Burwell, Mississauga, Milton, Toronto and Brampton, and the Alpine White X3 tested equally well in both rural and urban environments. Its 181 horsepower supplied ample pep to get me where I was going. I’m not a hard driver, so I value smooth acceleration in a car, and this one had it. (Besides, who wants to waste gas just to race to the next stop? Not me—better to keep my fill-ups to a minimum and my bank account at a maximum.)

So if you’re road tripping, or going for a drive in the country or city, just love the drive. Enjoy your co-pilots or appreciate the solitude. Turn up the music loud or turn it off. Engage in memorable conversations with others or, often in my case, with yourself.

At A Glance
2015 BMW X3 XDRIVEe28D

  • Engine: 2.0 L turbocharged diesel in-line 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower: 181; 280 lb-ft of torque
  • Fuel efficiency: 8.6 L/1000 km city; 6.9L/100 km highway; 7.9 combined
  • Tank capacity: 67L
  • Audio: Harman/Kardon 600-watt 16-speaker system (included in the enhanced premium package)
  • Tech options: Park distance control (front/rear) on-board navigation, active blind spot detection, lane departure and collision warning.
  • Tires: 245/45R19
  • Base MSRP: $45,000
  • Price as tested: $53,750 (includes premium package ($6,000) technology package ($1,6000), Connected Drive package ($500) and two standalone options ($650) combined)

Jay enjoys reviewing cars and playing guitar, and is always up for a great chat. In fact, sometimes he won’t shut up. Connect with him on Twitter via @JayKana.