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E83 Summary

The BMW X3 is a compact luxury crossover SUV (though BMW advertises it as an SAV, or Sport Activity Vehicle) produced by the German automaker BMW. It is based on the BMW 3-Series automobile platform. The X3 3.0i won the Canadian Car of the Year Best New Sport Utility Vehicle award for 2005.

History and Development

Along the heels of a very successful and ongoing production run of the BMW X5, BMW decided in the early millennium that it wanted to compete with the likes of the Land Rover Freelander and other small luxury SUVs just as the X5 had previously done so well in its respective classes. Thus the X3 (internally known as E83), was born.

What thus emerged was a concept unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show in 2003. Dubbed the xActivity, BMW previewed to the public for the first time what a smaller SAV based on a 3 Series platform would look like. The concept had no windows, for the most part no roof, and a sleek futuristic interior. Only the basic shape of the car would emerge as the BMW X3.

Just as BMW used many parts from the E39 5 Series parts bin in the making of the X5, the same occurred in the X3's development, whereby BMW engineers reused 3 Series parts. In fact, complete sets of parts came straight out of the E46 330xi unchanged in the X3 (e.g. rear suspension).

Austrian automotive contractor Magna Steyr of Graz, Austria performed additional development work and has been contracted to manufacture all first-generation X3s.


When the BMW X3 premiered in late 2003, BMW announced that it would be using a new 4 wheel drive system to power it and its bigger brother - The (refreshed) X5. The two key things about xDrive are, first, it being one one of the first technologies used to intervene before the driver was ever aware that the car could be unstable, and second, it being transparent (i.e. unknown) to the driver.


Right from the start, the BMW X3 was been criticized for its harsh ride, an austere interior that relied heavily on plastic components, and impracticality for off-road usage. Many critics also felt the car was overpriced; a basic 2.5i, which lacked cruise control or automatic headlights and had vinyl upholstery, exceeded $30,000. BMW sought to rectify these complaints in 2005, with various upgrades (see below). The X3 also disappointed some BMW purists by not being assembled at a BMW factory; instead, the car's production was outsourced to MAGNA STEYR, based in Graz, Austria. However, MAGNA STEYR has won numerous awards for quality and is the highest rated car assembly factory in Europe.

The automotive press however for the most part had mixed views of the X3 ranging all over the spectrum. Jeremy Clarkson even said that the X3 was for people who are clinically insane after his road test of it. He also criticized it for its harsh ride, and showed the poor off-road ability in reality when he took one into a "not very tough" off-road trail. He got stuck multiple times, although he has admitted that he is not a very good off-road driver, but the trail didn't provide options for going from somewhere else, as it was basically a road with off-road trail obstacles in it.

SIRIUS on the E83

BMW offers SIRIUS satellite radio on the E83 as a dealer installed option, however, dealers have been known to charge upwards of $800 to install this option. X3 owners can order the BMW SIRIUS tuner and install it themselves (there are a lot of DIY install guides the in the E83 forum). The tuner with wiring kit is $550 from places like Circle BMW ( The tuner installs in a discrete location and owners control everything through the standard radio interface. If you want a fully integrated SIRIUS, this is the only solution. If you don't want to install it yourself, you can get the dealer to roll their price into your monthly payment.

The BMW SIRIUS solution requires that 2004-2006 E83s are equipped with the option SA-693 "Satellite pre-wire." 2007+ X3s have satellite pre-wiring standard.

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