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June 18, 2003

GERMANY: BMW reveals new X3 SUV

BMW has announced first details of its new X3 SUV Freelander-chasing model – heralded by the xActivity concept late last year – which will be launched at the Frankfurt motor show in September and go on sale in the UK next May. Initially to be offered with 195 bhp 2.5- and 231bhp three-litre petrol and 204bhp diesel straight sixes, the X3 will come later with a 170bhp 2.2-litre six and two-litre 143bhp petrol and 150bhp turbodiesel four cylinder motors. Six-speed manual gearboxes are standard with all engines with five-speed automatic optional.

By bcusack

BMW has announced first details of its new X3 SUV Freelander-chasing model – heralded by the xActivity concept late last year – which will be launched at the Frankfurt motor show in September and go on sale in the UK next May.

Initially to be offered with 195 bhp 2.5- and 231bhp three-litre petrol and 204bhp diesel straight sixes, the X3 will come later with a 170bhp 2.2-litre six and two-litre 143bhp petrol and 150bhp turbodiesel four cylinder motors. Six-speed manual gearboxes are standard with all engines with five-speed automatic optional.

The X3 introduces BMW’s new patented xDrive intelligent four-wheel-drive, which is claimed to set new standards in agility for all-wheel-drive systems. It works by instantly changing torque distribution – nominally 35% front, 65% rear – from front to rear axles for claimed “substantial improvements in stability, driving pleasure and safety”.

xDrive is said to be both fully adjustable and infinitely variable. It feeds optimum torque to the required axle at any time, countering understeer and oversteer while cornering on road. Off-road, xDrive significantly improves traction by distributing drive forces to the axle with most grip. As soon as wheel spin threatens, the electro-hydraulic centre coupling transfers power to the axle with greater traction.

Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) complements xDrive, but intervenes far later and is required less frequently. While xDrive, helps prevent loss of traction by channelling drive forces axle-to-axle, DSC works on individual wheels, intervening when one starts to slip. In these circumstances DSC cuts power to the relevant wheel and, where necessary, also applies brakes.

In appearance the BMW X3 looks like the result of a clandestine liaison between the larger X5 SUV and something lithe and young from BMW’s more recent stable – like the Z4. Concave and convex surfaces abound and the X3 has a pronounced “Hofmeister kink” in the rear side windows and a newly designed double kidney grille to complement the distinctive headlamps. At the back, the car also sports a new take on BMW tail lamps.

Inside, the dash design shows a number of similarities to that in the Z4 and lacks the controversial iDrive controller, seen on the 7- and 5-series models and also destined for the 6-series.

Though BMW claims to have invented a new class with this “Sports Activity Vehicle” there is little doubt former the former Land Rover owner has the ageing Freelander – whose facelift in a few months is surely no coincidence – in its crosshairs. The X3 is 160mm longer and about 100mm lower to the ground than the Landie and comparisons will be inevitable.

Production has been contracted out to Magna in Austria which is expected to build 60,000 a year.

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