All-New 2011 BMW X3 Revealed

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Few BMW models received as much negative attention as the X3 when it was launched. Following up the popular X5 was a tough order to begin with, but BMW's design department might have been a little too "creative" with its styling and the result was a design few loved, while interior quality was often criticized by media pundits that expected more.

For 2011, BMW will give us a lot more. The all-new X3 is much more conservatively penned, but more so it's longer, wider and taller than its predecessor. This last bit of information should come as no surprise, as the second-generation X5 increased its dimensions when it debuted and a new X1 is expected to slot in under the X3 becoming the German brand's new entry-level crossover.

How much larger is the new X3 over the outgoing model? It's 1.2 cm (0.5 inches) taller, 2.8 cm (1.1 inches) wider and 8.3 cm (3.3 inches) longer, which translates into a little roomier but not so large to make it feel particularly different than the outgoing model.

The more spacious interior is also much nicer, in the traditional BMW way. It follows recent upgrades to cabin treatments across the brand's lineup, with a natural flow to surfaces and higher quality materials and switchgear. No one should complain once inside the new X3, unless they don't like BMW's new joystick-like transmission lever or still have harboured feelings against iDrive. The much-improved system is accessed on a large 8.8-inch screen beneath a subtle hooded shroud that's now visually integrates the primary gauge package and centre stack into one. Now, wood grain is more plentiful and leather more bountiful, with aluminum accents kept to a minimum for a more tasteful overall effect.

Cargo space is up thanks to its longer and wider dimensions, now capable of gobbling up 538 litres (19.0 cu ft) of gear behind the second row and 1,574 litres (55.6 cu ft) when those 60/40-split seatbacks are laid flat.

Two drivetrains are available starting with the base X3 xDrive28i, which translated means a 3.0-litre inline six pushing 240 horsepower and 230 lb-ft of torque and a 0 to 100 km/h sprint below seven seconds, or approximately a half second quicker than the current model. Move up to the X3 xDrive35i and BMW's 300 horsepower turbocharged six feeds into the mix for a 5.7 second sprint to 100, thanks in part to 300 lb-ft of torque, plus a top speed of 250 km/h (150 mph) when the Sport Package is added. No doubt the new eight-speed automatic makes a big difference to top speed as well, although it's there mostly to curb fuel consumption thanks to an ultra-tall top gear.

The X3 is not an off-roader, but 12 mm (0.5 inches) greater ground clearance, an assortment of electronic driving aids, and standard all-wheel drive will make sure its capable of getting you to the cottage in one piece. The all-wheel drive system splits torque 40:60 for a nice rear-wheel bias that suits BMW's iconic name for driving dynamics. An electronically controlled multi-disc differential takes care of that, although a new system dubbed Performance Control will push 80 percent of the X3's torque to the rear under acceleration. If you're familiar with Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system, BMW's all-wheel drive system also brakes the inside rear wheel while powering the outside wheel so that understeer is kept to a minimum and optimal grip to a maximum.

The X3's suspension contributes most to driving dynamics, of course, and carries forward with MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup in the rear. Optional electronic damping control allows the driver to select between Normal, Sport and Sport Plus depending on need (or want), resulting in changes to throttle and shift response, steering assistance, DSC settings and the suspension setup, the latter spanning the range of comfort to firm.

Expect the 2011 X3 in Q4 of 2010, after production begins later this year at its Spartanburg, SC assembly plant.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, BMW, 2011, X3, $30,000 - $39,999, Compact,

Organizations: BMW

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