The 2011 BMW X3 is the compact luxury crossover's first full redesign since its 2004 introduction. With a slightly larger size, a new eight-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive, the five-seater combines BMW's signature driving prowess with the utility of a crossover. With numerous additions comes one deletion: The manual transmission will no longer be offered. The X3 competes with luxury crossovers like the Acura RDX, Audi Q5, Cadillac SRX and Infiniti EX35. Due in U.S. dealerships by the end of 2010, the X3 is built in Spartanburg, S.C.
The X3's sculpted hood reflects BMW's new design direction. Compared with the previous generation, the 2011's wheelbase is 0.6 inch longer, and it rides a half-inch higher, raising the overall height by half an inch as well. The overall length has increased 3.4 inches, and the X3 is also 1.1 inches wider.
The 2011 model's cabin space has increased, especially in the areas of legroom and elbowroom. The standard backseat is split 60/40 and can be folded down to extend the cargo volume. As an option, buyers can choose a 40/20/40-split backseat that allows any segment to be folded for maximum flexibility. Final figures aren't available yet, but BMW says cargo volume is substantially larger. Overall, the new X3 is close in size to the first-generation X5 crossover.
Under the Hood
The X3 will offer two engines: a 240-horsepower, 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder in the xDrive28i trim level and a 300-hp, turbocharged inline-six in the xDrive35i, bracketing the previous model year's sole 260-hp 3.0-liter. Both engines produce peak torque at exceptionally low rpm, which should make for quick sprints off the line. BMW's preliminary zero-to-60 mph estimates are 6.7 seconds and 5.5 seconds, respectively.
A new eight-speed automatic transmission is standard, as is all-wheel drive. As always, drivers can also shift manually using the gear selector or paddles on the steering wheel.
The all-wheel drive, which is the basis for the xDrive part of the name, sends 60 percent of the torque to the rear wheels for a balanced, rear-wheel-drive feel. It can also shift as much as 100 percent to the rear under automatic control.
The suspension is also redesigned for 2011, and computer-controlled adaptive shock absorbers, known as Electronic Damping Control, are optional.. Included with EDC are Dynamics Control selector buttons that allow the driver to select Normal, Sport and Sport Plus modes, which alter the ride firmness, accelerator responsiveness, transmission shift characteristics, power-steering assist and other settings.
Full details on safety features aren't available as of this writing but will appear in the Standard Equipment & Specs section. At minimum, the X3's standard features include four-wheel standard antilock brakes, an electronic stability system and six airbags: two frontal, two front-seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side curtains on either side to protect front and backseat occupants in a side impact or a rollover.