The BMW X3 is a compact luxury crossover SUV 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 Freelander, Lexus RX and other small luxury SUV's 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, emerging unscathed 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 X3's.
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.
Instead of a 60-40 (rear-front) power split (which all millennium 4 wheel drive BMW's exhibit - 325xi, 330xi, early X5) with power being cut to wheels which lost traction through DSC (Dynamic Stability Control), xDrive allowed both of these vehicles to split power between the front and rear axles through use of a multiplate clutch located between the gearbox and the Cardan shaft. This setup allowed xDrive vehicles to split power in virtually any way it pleased. If the car felt like it was in a threatening situation (note not an unstable one), xDrive would react immediately, often before the driver ever knew of its intervention, to alleviate traction and control of the vehicle. xDrive is also closely knit with DSC. In the case that wheelspin stills occurs while xDrive is or has been shifting power, DSC can brake independent wheels to regain traction. xDrive also helps in cornering. When the vehicle feels it is about to understeer or oversteer, the vehicle cuts traction to either of the front wheels or rear wheels to help regain stability and keep the driver on the road.
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 had been criticized for its harsh ride and poor interior by critics. BMW rectified both in 2005, with a slightly softer ride and by matching plastics and carpeting in the 2005 X5's. It has also been criticized for not being built at a BMW factory. However, Magna Steyer, the factory in Austria 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 - unusual for BMW, but then again not so unsual for modern BMW's.