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Carrying the family in luXury

LAST week as the chequered history of Irish journalists behaving badly on airplanes hit new lows, I boarded a plane to Atlanta, Georgia, for the BMW launch of the year. Unlike a certain Cork broadcaster I didn't remove my underpants and have a nervous breakdown at 35,000 feet, after a glass of wine and a Nurofen.

The only filthy thoughts going through my head as I torpedoed towards America's Deep South were of the dirty creeks and overland tracks where I'd be taking the all-new X3, once I got my hands on her.

Now when you're flown transatlantic by somebody who wants you to look at their car you have a fair idea that it's going to be good.

But what BMW unveiled in the USA last week is something special indeed, and something that will have the Q5 quaking in its boots.

Okay, I hear you say, you were in the States at a BMW car launch, you're bound to have been captivated by all those bright lights and the great American hospitality.

Well, far from it my fellow petrolheads, the only thing that turned me was the X3 itself.

This is one of the most exciting car launches in years, given the massive success of the original X3, and BMW being renown for re-launching improved models with spectacular results.


And BMW is already confident that 640,000 X3s will be sold following its global launch.

And there are many reasons why the all-new version will completely outgun its predecessor.

First up, it's bigger than it ever was -- almost the same size as the original X5, and it now has a staggering 1,600 litres of luggage compartment on board.

Secondly, it's €4k cheaper than the old one, based on a price of €46k for a BMW SUV.

Thirdly, and very importantly, the X3 looks stunning; it is a masterpiece in design and styling.

It looks more sophisticated than any BMW SUV to date -- thanks to its contoured bonnet, chrome-trim headlights, new-look kidney grille, and powerful flared wheel arches.

And finally, saving the best until last, the X3 performs like no other and that's down to the stunning X-Drive four-wheel drive, dynamic damper control, performance control and variable sports steering.

Given that this was the global launch for the X3, there were various models on display and ready to drive including a superb looking X-Drive 35i.

Off road

Sadly we will only be getting one car here -- the diesel X-Drive20d, but don't fret, it is an absolute peach and if all goes well she should be here for the 11-D plate rush.

And, most surprisingly of all, it does a bloody good job off road -- the very place these yummy mummy machines were never originally designed to perform. Our track at the delightful Paintree Farm wasn't exactly the Grand Canyon, but it was challenging enough for the most avid of 4x4 drivers.

And the car performed excellently.

On the road it moved at great pace. Its acceleration and performance was superb, and road handling was beautifully controlled.

Furthermore and unlike the first generation, it was a comfy, soft ride -- no bounce and none of the rigidity that ruined X3 Mark I.

All in all, one of America's biggest -- and definitely best cities -- was the perfect place to hail the birth of this beautiful new US dream machine.