BMW has revealed the first official details of its second-generation X3 prior to its world debut at the upcoming Paris auto show.
Set to go on sale in Europe in November and the United States in January 2011, BMW says the new X3 will be priced close to the current model. The premium SUV has been completely redesigned and reengineered in a move BMW hopes will see it emulate the first-generation model's success, sales of which have now topped the 600,000 mark worldwide since its introduction in 2003.
These pictures of a pre-production prototype issued by BMW reveal that the new X3 retains the two-box silhouette and hard-edged styling theme established by its predecessor, although the tape disguise continues to hide its more subtle design features and detailing.
“We wanted to ensure there was a clear visual link with the first-generation model. When you see it in the metal without disguise for the first time, there's no doubting it is an X3,” an insider told AutoWeek, an affiliate of Automotive News Europe.
Riding on adapted four-wheel-drive underpinnings from the all-new 3 series (the E30 due next year), the X3 has grown in every dimension. The increase in size better positions the X3 neatly between the smaller X1 and the larger X5.
Inside, the new X3 sports a noticeably higher-quality dashboard and trim materials than its rather low-rent predecessor, something BMW admits was necessary given the increased competition the new four-wheel drive faces. The instruments and switchgear are of a level comparable to those found in the new 5 series. The increased external dimensions help improve interior accommodation.
BMW confirmed to AutoWeek that the X3 will be offered with the choice of four engines when sales begin. Gasoline units set to underpin North American sales include a 268-hp naturally aspirated 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder in the X3 xDrive28i and a 302-hp, twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder in the X3 xDrive35i. Europe also gets two turbocharged common-rail diesels.
Other engines are planned, including a 201-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel in a midrange X3 xDrive23d model. An ActiveHybrid version is also in the works, according to high-placed BMW sources, although it isn't likely to go on sale until 2012 at the earliest.
The entry-level X3 xDrive20d comes standard with a Getrag-engineered six-speed manual gearbox. The remainder get ZF's latest eight-speed automatic with automatic stop/start, the first time such a combination has been applied to a BMW model.
Along with the standard four-wheel-drive layout applied to all initial second-generation X3 models, BMW says it is also looking at introducing a rear-wheel-drive version X3 sDrive28i. That would be part of BMW's efforts to further penetrate the U.S. market, where its rival, the Mercedes-Benz GLK class, sees a 40 percent take rate for the rear-wheel-drive model.
In a move that provides hints to the mechanical make-up of the upcoming 3 series, BMW confirms that the X3 adopts a newly developed mechanical-electric steering system from ThyssenKrupp in place of the ZF-engineered hydraulic system found on the current model.
The German steel-making giant, which purchased rival Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler's steering system division as part of diversification plans, is expected to play an increasingly prominent role in the development of future steering systems at BMW.
And to answer long-standing criticism of the X3's too-harsh ride, BMW has provided the second-generation model with VDC, or variable damping control. The new system offers three levels of damper stiffness -- normal, sport and sport plus. Altering the damping also serves to change the threshold settings of DTC, or dynamic traction control.
Unlike the first-generation X3, which hailed from Magna Steyr's manufacturing plant in Graz, Austria, the site set to produce the new Mini Countryman SUV, the new model will roll off BMW's own U.S. production lines in Spartanburg, South Carolina.