Thoughts on the car: The BMW X3
In the city in Johannesburg and Cape Town, a lot of the 4×4-type vehicles are mostly used to shuttle between gym and shopping centres, car parks and offices, so you don’t ever get to experience their full capacity. xDrive Park is a chance to take an X3 and to show that, as well as being perfectly capable of shuttling around a city, it can get quite adventurous if the situation demands.
Soft River Sand: Dan’s Thrill Rating 4/5
I do a lot of skiing—I’m not very good, but I do love it—and with skiing, and also with mountain biking, speed is your friend. Similarly, when the wheels start shifting a bit in the sand, you’ve got to keep up a speed even when your natural inclination is to hit the brake. As long as you keep that steady speed—you’re not racing through it, but it’s a nice, constant speed—and you’re keeping away from the brake, as tempting as it is sometimes, you’ll get through really comfortably. You’re thinking, “Oh, I’m going to fly off here and roll over!” but actually the car is controlling itself. You’re drifting a little bit, but it knows you’re drifting left, so it’ll correct right or vice versa. Next time I’m off in Namibia drifting through the desert, I’ll know I’m in safe hands.
Next time I’m off in Namibia drifting through the desert, I’ll know I’m in safe hands.
– Dan Nicholl
Hill Ascent and Descent: Dan’s Thrill Rating 3/5
I think for showcasing what the car is capable of, this was probably the most impressive. There is a simple elevation where you go up a little hill and back down the other side, but the car drives itself. I’ve been with the BMW team for almost a decade now, and I didn’t know of that capability, so that was quite cool to discover. It’s really good if you are a slightly nervous driver or if you’re in the bush and you happen to be dipping into a dry river bed and out the other side. The cameras are all in play, so you’re perfectly safe, and it gives you a nice, controlled climb and descent.
It’s really good if you are a slightly nervous driver.
– Dan Nicholl
Side Slope: Dan’s Thrill Rating 5/5
This was the one that was the most ‘take-your-breath-away’. When you first see it, it doesn’t look as though it’s going to be quite as hair-raising as it turns out to be. There’s a kind of elevated arch which you drive along, a half crescent that comes up at an angle, so the car starts turning. I think while you’re driving it, you’re quite focussed on just driving, but if you sit in the passenger seat, you are then dropped to a sort of metre below the eye level of your driver, and it seems almost certain that you’re about to tumble over. It feels like you’re at a 45-degree angle, but it’s actually closer to 30. It shows just how well balanced the car is. You are perfectly safe, though I did make sure I had my seatbelt on and the door locked, just in case.
Last thoughts on BMW xDrive Park
It was a great deal of fun. I think it also spoke to the value of knowing a bit more about your car, knowing a bit more about driving. The reality is we live in a country where the roads are often a little sketchy, where the traffic lights don’t always work and where not every single driver is 100% safe on the road, unfortunately, so having a better understanding of what your car can do, how to drive it and how to deal with challenging situations just puts you in slightly better stead.