2011 BMW X3 Preview

Jeff Youngs | Dec 31, 2010

Highlights

  • All-new model with completely new evolutionary styling
  • Two new models: xDrive28i and xDrive35i
  • Standard 6-cylinder power and standard all-wheel drive
  • New 8-speed automatic transmission
  • New available Electronic Damping Control suspension
  • New available Driving Dynamics Control
  • Assembled in Spartanburg, South Carolina
  • In showrooms by the end of 2010

Introduction

The BMW X3,the automaker's compact entry-level sport utility vehicle, has been inproduction since 2004.Unlike some other models in this category, the luxury-oriented X3 wasoriginally designed to offer superior on-road prowess over seriousoff-road handling (BMWprefers to call it a "sport activity vehicle," or SAV, instead of anSUV). With standard 6-cylinder power, full-time all-wheel drive,5-passenger seating, and an available 6-speed manual transmission, theoriginal BMW X3 satisfied an untapped niche in the market. According tothe automaker, more than 600,000 original X3 models were sold duringits 7-year production run.

An all-new, second-generation BMW X3 debuts for the 2011 model year.Unlike 2004, when BMW's SAV was unique within a relatively new segment,others have now stepped in with their own offerings. Today, the all-newBMW X3 will compete with the Audi Q5, Mercedes-BenzGLK-Class, LandRover LR2, and Infiniti EX,among others.

Taller, longer and wider than the outgoing model, thenew BMW X3 features styling that is more evolutionary thanrevolutionary. The new X3 features a more aggressive front fascia withBMW's signature headlights, which are illuminated with LED coronarings. The sides sport muscular wheel arches, while the rear lightshave been pushed to the corners of the liftgate. As is the case withall late-model BMWs, the characteristic styling contour line runsthrough each side, from just aft of the front wheels, through the doorhandles, and sweeps up to end in the corner of the tail lamps.

The outgoing BMW X3 models were assembled in Austria and shipped to theNorth American market. In a turn of events, BMW has invested $750million in its Spartanburg, South Carolina assembly plant tomanufacture the 2011 BMW X3 domestically and ship vehicles for saleworldwide. The first models are expected to roll into showrooms beforethe end of 2010.

Overview

The outgoing, previous-generation BMW X3 was offeredwith one engine-a 3.0-liter inline-6 rated at 260 horsepower-during itslast year in production. The 2011 model will be offered with a choiceof two powerplants. The standard X3 xDrive28i features amagnesium/aluminum 3.0-liter inline-6 rated at 240 horsepower and 230lb.-ft. of torque. (According to BMW, it is the lightest 6-cylinderengine of its size in the world.)

The X3 xDrive35i is fitted with an all-aluminum, single-turbocharger,direct-injected 3.0-liter inline-6 rated at 300 horsepower and 300lb.-ft. of torque. Both engines come mated to BMW's new 8-speedautomatic transmission that sends power to all four wheels through arefined version of the company's full-time all-wheel-drive system thatBMW calls "xDrive."

Both powertrains offer significantly better performance than that ofthe outgoing model, according to BMW. The xDrive28i will accelerate to60 mph in 6.7 seconds (one half-second faster than the 2010 X3xDrive30i model), while the xDrive35i will hit the same benchmark in5.5 seconds, says BMW. According to the manufacturer, the top speed ofthe xDrive35i is electronically limited to 150 mph when equipped withthe optional Sport package. EPA fuel-economy figures have not yet beenreleased.

The suspension of the 2011 BMW X3 has been completelyredeveloped with a new, double-joint spring-strut suspension at thefront and a multi-link rear suspension. According to BMW, the newdesign allows the X3 to offer both driving comfortand sporty handling. Available optionally isElectronic Damping Control (EDC), which electronically controls thefirmness of the suspension. The EDC system is bundled with a DrivingDynamics Control (DDC) selector that allows the driver to tailordriving characteristics to three settings: Normal, Sport and SportPlus. While the suspension tuning always defaults to the softestconfiguration based on speed (for improved ride), BMW says theelectronics are sensitive enough to sense a pothole at the front wheeland adjust rear-wheel damping before it hits the impending bump-even athighway speeds. "Servotronic" speed-sensitive power steering isstandard on all models.

Technology

The 2011 BMW X3 features a new 8-speed automatic transmission thatreplaces its predecessor's 6-speed automatic gearbox. The newtransmission offers "taller" gears for more fuel-efficient cruising athighway speeds, and a better spread of ratios for faster accelerationoff the line and around town, BMW says. Electronically controlled, thetransmission is able to shift quickly between gears-even direct shiftsfrom 8th gear to 2nd gear-if maximum acceleration is needed. This isthanks to its multiple clutch packs (no more than two of the fiveavailable clutch packs are freewheeling at any given time, BMW says).Unlike most transmissions that increase in size and weight as gears areadded, BMW's new 8-speed boasts two additional gears without anyincrease in bulk or mass, according to the automaker. According to BMW,the new transmission is an integral part of the company's "EfficientDynamics" philosophy that helps the 2011 X3 achieve quicker shifts,greater smoothness, and enhanced fuel efficiency
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