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 Satellite Radio 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.
2005 Model Year Changes
- Bluetooth could actually be ordered straight from the factory (part of the Premium Package) and functioned without dealer intervention. (Although the BMW X3 was originally offered and promised with Bluetooth support in 2004, none of the cars that shipped from the factory actually had it installed. Few were able to get it to work with a little bit of tinkering from their dealer.)
- The interior was upgraded with more consistent plastic panels. Also instead of having grey carpeting which was present on all 2004 X3s, the 2005 X3 came with carpeting that matched the leather ordered (with the exception of the Terracotta interior with black carpeting).
- Slightly softer suspension.
- Front wheel fenders are one piece, as opposed to the two piece found on 2004 models.
- A 2.0d engine became available in some markets - joining the 2.5i and 3.0i internal combustion engine (found stateside) as well as the 3.0d engine sold elsewhere in the world.
- An 'Open-Door' indicator was added to rectify the complaint made by many on the 2004 models.
2006 Model Year Changes
- The new BMW R6 engines available across the rest of the BMW lineup were, as with the 2006 X5 & 2006 Z4, curiously absent from the 2006 X3. It is rumored that the X3 will not get the R6 until the all-new BMW X5 is released in 2007 which will include the R6 engine amongst other newer engines. The X3 will receive, however, redesigned monochromatic front and rear fascias to replace the flat black bumpers. Also, the 2.5i variant will no longer be sold in the U.S., as buyers tended to go more for the 3.0i model.
- U.S. bound 2006 X3's were all equipped with a special version of the 'M' technik bodykit as standard. The difference being in that the U.S. cars had unpainted door sills and wheel arches. U.S. spec Sport Package 2006 X3's got the full 'M' bodykit (with painted front, side and rear plastic) available in the rest of the world as a BMW accessory.
- 2.5i was removed for sale from the U.S. market.
2007 Model Year Changes
- The 3.0si engine produces 260 horsepower and 225 torque, at a lower (2500) RPM.
- New 6-speed steptronic transmission built in France by GM.
- The front and rear facia are changed, more resembling the X5 SUV. Nice mix between the 2004-05 black bumpers and the '06's fully painted.
- New LED taillights
- Front lights get Angel Eyes
- Numerous interior upgrades
- The Cold Weather package includes heated seats in the front and the rear.
- SA-693 "satellite prewire" is now standard
- New exterior colors: Montego Blue Metallic, Monaco Blue Metallic, Crimson Red, Platinum Bronze Metallic
2008 Model Year Changes
- New optional "Sport Activity Package" which adds functionality with a sporty appearance. The package includes Privacy Glass, A new Sport leather wrapped steering wheel, Running boards, Shadowline trim, and Style 205, 18" wheels. These were available as a stand-alone option on the MY2007 X3; for MY2008 these wheels will only be available in the Sport Activity Package.
- Ambient lighting has been added to significantly enhance the optional Premium Package. This feature is similar to the ambient lighting standard on the 3 Series and includes: front footwell lighting, door handle illumination, exterior mirror puddle lamps, and door entry/exit area illumination.