BMW GB has taken almost 4,000 advanced orders for the X3, eight months before the compact SUV goes on sale in Britain.

The X3 - the first 'outsourced' BMW; it's built under contract by Magna in Austria - reaches UK showrooms next May, and total sales for 2004 are expected to be in the region of 6,000. "We could well be sold out before we even reach the start of sales," admitted a BMW insider. Those 4,000 advanced orders are all "firm commitments" with dealers holding deposits.

The X3 will launch with 2.5 and 3.0 litre petrol versions with a 2.0 diesel joining the line-up next autumn. Prices for the 2.5 will start at £28,615 on the road and £32,015 for the 3.0 litre. SE and Sport trims will be offered.

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