Cars Beaching a BMW X3 in the Saharan Desert

18:51  07 december  2017
18:51  07 december  2017 Source:   MSN

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We give the new BMW X3 a real-world test like no other: pitching it against the challenging landscape of Morocco.: BMW X3 xDrive30d M Sport © BMW BMW X3 xDrive30d M Sport

The wheels are spinning, but the BMW isn’t going anywhere. Every revolution of the static alloys fails to be converted into forward momentum and instead acts as a spade, shovelling sand and sinking the new X3 deeper into the huge blood orange dunes.

Usually this wouldn’t be too much of a problem, but this isn’t a seaside resort, this is 25 miles from civilisation, in the Saharan desert.

We’ve spent the last hour tackling one of the toughest off-road routes I’ve ever experienced – from deep, rolling dunes to sharp, rocky trails – and the fact that only now, just a few feet from our final destination, one of my colleagues has managed to half bury a BMW is a testament to the X3’s abilities.

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Evidence of this is BMW UK’s Trans- Saharan trip in bone-stock BMW X 3 s. In the desert , they crossed a section of the Dakar Rally Race, through the Erg Chigaga Sand Sea and ending in Foum Zguid.

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Nestled in a lunar landscape, beneath a carpet of stars so bright they look superimposed on the sky, is our camp. A series of Bedouin tents have popped up between the dunes, rugs laid out across the sand and a sweet smell of mint tea is wafting through the rapidly cooling air.

a car parked on the side of a road © Provided by The Press Association

Over a lamb tagine and chicken kebab dinner, we chat under canvas about a day of adventure. It started off in luxury in the incredible Mandarin Oriental in Marrakesh. Outside the site’s gates, roads swarmed with the shrill of hundreds of scooters, darting in and out of battered cars and rammed-full buses.

Inside, the complex is a retreat fit for a king. Huge marble arches, rich gardens and luscious lakes surround a myriad of huge villas – each with their own pools, steam rooms and Jacuzzis and bigger than most London flats.

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Pampered and relaxed, we set off on our epic drive towards the Atlas Mountains, thrown head first into the madness of Marrakesh. It’s an assault on the senses, and tests defensive driving skills to the limits.

a group of people walking down a street © Provided by The Press Association

It subsides as quickly as it erupted, the roads opening up into out-of-this-world landscapes. Soon we’re crossing the Tizi n Tichka mountain pass, one mighty hairpin after another. Our X30d – with a new 260bhp, 620Nm engine – is by far the pick of the range, and on roads like this, it’s swift and enjoyable.

Morocco might only be a stone’s throw from Gibraltar and the European mainland, but it still feels a long way from home. The scenery is breathtaking, the people fascinating and the temperature testing. The roads, meanwhile, are far from ruined – fresh asphalt and comforting Armco line the Atlas Mountain passes, and the reassurance they give are welcoming.

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At midday we arrive in Ouarzazate, and the famous Atlas Film Studios. It’s here where Hollywood brings flicks like Gladiator and Cleopatra to life, building huge towns and cities out of wood and plaster of Paris.

We drive around the sandy site in our BMWs, entering the gates of Game of Thrones, a huge city set brought to life by thousands of extras that are bussed in from the surrounding villages when they’re needed.

a chair sitting in front of a building © Provided by The Press Association

By dusk we’ve covered nearly 300 miles, and have taken in the stunning Anti Atlas Mountains. We filter our way through M’Hamid, the last conurbation before the desert, in a dusty convoy. To the locals we look like aliens, 15 brand new BMWs disappearing off into the darkness.

Our camp, not far from the Algerian border, is an hour of off-roading away. We play follow the leader as our X3 drifts and slips its way like a rally car across the challenging terrain. It would be great fun, if only we could see where we’re going. Just the lights of the cars in front illuminate the impenetrable darkness.

It’s this swamp of blackness that unbalances the rhythm of one of our colleagues when approaching the camp. They fail to give a sand dune the run up it deserves, beaching the BMW in a position that takes seven men and shovels to retrieve it from.

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After a night listening to the chorus of exhausted snoring upsetting the local wildlife, we wake before sunrise to experience the twilight of the pre-dawn hour. Out here, far from anywhere, it’s a magical hue that gently illuminates the ripples of satsuma sand as far as the eye can see.

a car driving down a dirt road © Provided by The Press Association

Over a breakfast of sickly coffee you could erect a spoon in and spicy egg omelette, we’re told today will be tougher than yesterday. Five hours of harsh off roading will be followed by a dash back across the mountains to the airport – and even leaving at dawn is pushing check-in for our 6pm flight.

Warning soon forgotten, we’re quickly back in the off-road groove, drifting the off-roader around sandy corners, and clattering over sharp rocks. As the desert eases, we experience the barren, flat, dry river beds of the Ouef Draa, Iriki Lane and Erg Chigaga, all stages of the famous Dakar Rally.

Huge plumes of dust billow out of the back of the convoy, spreading rooster tails of dust high into the sky, as we chuckle at the spectacle.

As we approach Foum Zguid, on the edge of the desert, our BMW calmly tells us our nearside rear wheel has lost pressure. The X3 wasn’t lying, the rubber is well and truly past its sell by date. BMW chaperones soon arrive out of the dust and whip the ruined wheel off, and we once again make our way back on to Tarmac – after five hours of bumping and crashing, the X3 feels like it’s riding on a cloud.

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a car parked on the side of the road © Provided by The Press Association

Back in the Anti-Atlas Mountains, we start to make good progress, giving us time to enjoy the X3’s comfy new interior and smart multimedia system. But 100 miles in, we hear a popping and a hiss, and the now all-too familiar warning chime caused by another tyre losing pressure.

This time team BMW isn’t close, and with no phone reception we’re left waiting in the searing heat for help to arrive.

An hour later, the support car pulls up – but out jump some very worried looking PR personnel. It’s not the tyre that’s causing the frowns, but the time. We’ve got 130 miles to go, back across the challenging Atlas Mountains, and even without hold ups it looks like we’ll miss the only flight out of Marrakesh that day.

a boat on a body of water with a mountain in the background © Provided by The Press Association What’s more, we’re not the only ones to have lost a tyre – two of our colleagues are stranded further down the road, and will need collecting en route.

And so begins a rush to the airport, quite unlike any I’ve experienced before. In a village at the foot of the mountains we find the national newspaper scribe and his snapper, marooned by a tyre that’s seemingly disintegrated. We throw their kit in the X3 and head off on a three-hour rally stage. From screeching hairpin bends to blink-and-you’ll-miss-them overtakes, the BMW takes it all in its stride.

Through sweat, tears and clenched body parts we hurtle into the Marrakesh airport car park with just minutes to spare. I throw the keys into the hands of the waiting BMW team, and we run to the check-in desk. The flight is closing, but we manage to get our boarding passes and dash to the gate.

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This mid-sized SUV has been polished by BMW to an extremely high standard. But there’s an app that identifies constellations in the dark-as-oil night sky. It’s a great way to distract yourself from the fear of kidnap when camping in the Sahara desert .

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a car parked on a dirt road © Provided by The Press Association Sat, perspiring, exhausted but elated on the plane, I look across to the newspaper hacks who’ve endured the pan-Moroccan mad dash with me, and we smile. While at times it was close, often mad, and quite frequently very scary, we made it.

The BMW X3 may have two new tyres, but it’s been returned unscathed and we’re taxiing down the runway just 25 minutes after we barrelled into the airport car.

All credit to BMW. There aren’t many firms who’d put their cars, or a bunch of journalists, through what we experienced, but I’ve got more respect than ever for the X3 and the company for doing it. It’s proven it’s a truly capable car, able to transport you and your family on any adventure – and I for one am certainly looking forward to the next one.

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