Variety is the spice of life. BMW choosing to retain the upright, off-road look for the new G01 BMW X3 means that it’s the only rugged looking player in the segment.

The second-generation Audi Q5 – also an evolution of a well-received original – has a more urbane, crossover style; ditto the Mercedes-Benz GLC, a newcomer that’s now a fixture in the posh Bangsar-Damansara Heights enclave.

Away from the Germans, the Lexus NX‘s super sharp origami design is an acquired taste, while the second-gen XC60 is distinctively Volvo. Anglophiles will be paying over the odds for the Jaguar F-Pace. Whatever your preference, there’s a premium midsize SUV for you, but bear in mind that the Q5 and XC60 currently sold in Malaysia are previous-generation models on their last legs – both were launched here in 2009.

The same design concept does not mean that it looks the same, though. The third-generation X3 is the boldest and most dynamic looking one to date, and that’s apparent once new and old are viewed side-by-side. “Powerful and sophisticated, like a football player in a suit,” is how G01 X3 exterior designer Calvin Luk sums up the new SUV in a sentence.

In our exclusive walk-around video with the man who penned the car, the young Australian talks us through the X3’s bold new face (larger and higher kidney grille, deletion of the X-car signature ‘third eye’ fog lamp), squarish wheel arches, pronounced shoulder crease, sculpturing on the flanks and strong shoulders.

Along with the more imposing looks is a slightly larger footprint. The latest X3 is 60 mm longer and 10 mm wider than before, with 54 mm of the newfound length going into the wheelbase.

Rear-end highlights include 3D sculpted tail lamps, a downward-sloping spoiler and horizontal lines to emphasise width. The M40i’s square tail pipes mimic the shape of the wheel arches. Luk also introduces us to what I feel is one of the most improved aspects of the G01 – the interior.

Personally, I’m a big fan of what the 30-year old has done for BMW so far. He transformed one of Munich’s ugliest ducklings into something palatable (F20 1 Series facelift) and is also credited with the current F48 X1 (a big shift in design and concept for the baby X) and the Concept Z4 that we saw in July, one of BMW’s most stunning showcars in recent times. What do you think of the new X3’s looks?

The G01 you see here is the new M40i range topper, an M Performance answer to the likes of Audi’s SQ5 and the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43. It’s powered by a 3.0 litre inline-six engine with 360 hp and 500 Nm of torque from 1,250 to 4,800 rpm. Paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission and xDrive, it does 0-100 km/h in just 4.8 seconds with the help of launch control.

Away from the M40i, BMW offers the X3 in usual 20i, 30i, 20d and 30d forms. The petrols are the latest 2.0 litre turbocharged units with 184 hp/290 Nm (20 Nm more, 0-100 km/h 8.3s) and 252 hp/350 Nm (7 hp more than old 28i, 0-100 km/h 6.3s). The ZF eight-speeder and xDrive are standard across the range, but the base petrol version that will surface in Q2 2018 can also be had without AWD (sDrive20i).

The G01 X3 isn’t just a better drive, it’s an all-round better SUV too, as you’ll read about in our full review. Coming to Malaysia next year.

GALLERY: G01 BMW X3 M40i in Portugal