First we take (took) Lyon, then we take Berlin
The next morning, my desire came true. After a well deserved rest, we were heading to Berlin, almost 700 km away, mostly via the A6 and A9 roads. Soon, the early hours traffic flurry cleared, the vaunted no-speed-limit signs finally emerged at the sides of the autobahn, and it was time to engage the WARP engine.
So yes, the X3 handles the post-130 km/h aerodynamics beautifully. It maintains a steady acceleration, and it doesn't feel like it's running out of breath, in either Comfort or Sport. Typically, with most 2.0-liter diesels, the low-speed enthusiasm quickly tapers off, but not so with the X3. While the road and traffic conditions prevented me from flooring it all the way, I was able to reach about 190 km/h without any issues. So no achievement unlocked.
The X3 is sure-footed, but the wind can be a distracting factor, especially at very high speed. This means you might want to ease off a little through long, sweeping corners, even though technically the car can handle it. But then going almost 200 km/h in a SUV is a cool thing.
Unlike my first (and second) Germany roadtrips, which took part in the northwest, the road conditions were a bit less in my favor this time. There was more rain – damp roads make the newbs sweat – there were more cars, hence less speed, and we even encountered a couple of accidents, one on a 80 km/h section where cars are boxed into narrow lanes with no shoulder. It happened in the opposite direction to our travel, and the 10-km traffic jam probably took ages to clear. Not something you want to have when you have seven or eight hours of driving ahead of you.
The German autobahns are also toll-free, but this means fuel stations and resting areas don't have to be too close to the road, so we found ourselves suddenly in the middle of farmland, going to tiny if quite well-organized places with rather good food and the sex-toy dispensing restrooms. A great opportunity to try the X3 off piste, if you will (the countryside, that is) – no real mud and gravel mind you to challenge the all-wheel drivetrain, just some mild B roads. And then, it was time to hit the big city once more.
Ich bin eine Berliner
Like any big city, Berlin is too big for its own good – and its road infrastructure. The traffic is annoying (if less than some other large cities), but you are still forced to snail at 30 km/h through a maze of taxis, cyclists, roadworks, and other urban phenomena. But hey, 'tis a roadtrip! The X3 isn't really a car for the jam. That said, it handled the mayhem pretty well. Soft and easy, as they say. Or do they?
To offset the trauma of the city slog, I went to visit a couple of car museums – no roadtrip is really complete without one. First, I went to the Classic Remise, similar to the one in Dusseldorf. Same same but different. While you do get to glimpse a lot of the familiar stock, each venue has its own unique, superbly preserved examples. The Berlin one had lots of old Peugeots and Citroens, a one-of-a-kind 1943 Alpha Romeo (no photos allowed), and a Bugatti Veyron – alas, hidden behind a glass window. Then, a DB4, a glitzy and massive Ford Thunderbird, plus a few pricey vintage Mercedes cars, just to be on the safe side.
Next on the menu may sound like a cliche – the Trabi Museum. If you've never had a chance to see or sit in a Trabant, then this locale can help you with that. It's a small museum, but it captures the spirit of the two-stroke Duroplast (un)wonder from DDR, complete with a documentary, lots of souvenirs, and several well-preserved examples from the Zwickau plant's (un)golden years.
Soon, there was no more car activity left, and it was time to part way with the X3. But not before driving it to its final resting place (until the next drive), up a narrow, spiraling parking ramp that merrily triggered the bumper sensors. That and the city slog ordeal do reinforce the feeling this fairly large SUV is a free-ranging animal, and best not kept within the confines of a concrete zoo. An important consideration that can hamper an otherwise impeccable experience.
As I've said many times before, when it comes to four-wheeled fun, Germany is the one country in the world where you can detox your driving aggression in a controlled, safe way, enjoying speed and precision and the full ability of whatever automotive platform you might be seated in at that moment. But France ain't too bad either, if you're willing to take it easy and relaxed.
BMW X3 with its fangful turbodiesel was a trustworthy companion on this trek, offering a joyful work environment. It was never boring or overwhelming, the electronics didn't chirp for no good reason, and many hours of continuous driving posed no challenged to our anatomy, thanks to sculpted seats. Normally, I am not that keen on big cars, especially not elevated ones, but I found myself warming up to the X3 over the period of our little roadtrip. So there. If you want to speed, and you wanna be classy while doing it, too, this seems like a good choice. We shall be having a separate X3 review soon, with extra focus on the finer details. Now, take care, and WARP 9, engage.