1 Jul 2004
BMW probably didn’t expect the X3 to get the critical pasting it did after the glowing reviews of its ever-popular X5.
The styling – “flame surfacing” in the modern Chris Bangle BMW idiom – divided consumers, as it seemed a little clumsy and incomplete.
Meanwhile there were concerns about the quality of the Austrian-built X3, from a perception as well as build point-of-view.
But the real problem was the X5, since it was only marginally larger and cost only marginally more than the X3, but seemed light a significantly better presented and resolved motor vehicle.
It was only when the second-generation – and much larger as well as costlier – X5 arrived in 2007 that the X3’s positioning became clear.
Built on a modified E46 3 Series platform, the E38 X3 debuted BMW’s X-drive 4WD system that promised excellent on-road dynamics and good off-road stability and traction.
Initially two engines were introduced – a 141kW/245Nm 2.5-litre unit with five-speed automatic or six-speed manual gearboxes – or the 170kW/300Nm 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder motor found in many other BMW models at the time. This one only came as a five-speed automatic.
In early 2006 the X3 3.0d arrived, using a turbo-diesel six-cylinder DOHC 24V engine to deliver 160kW of power and 480Nm of torque.
It also heralded a series of minor trim changes and equipment upgrades to the entire, slow-selling X3 range.
The Road to Recovery podcast series
28th of January 2005
BMW 2004 X3 3.0i
X5's smaller sibling arrives Down Under at an only slightly smaller price
When it was new
8th of December 2005
BMW X3 gets slick diesel power
BMW X3 off-roader gets the same ripping 3.0-litre turbo-diesel power as big bro X5
18th of October 2005
BMW X3 3.0d a premium offering
Diesels are growing in popularity so BMW adds an X3 turbodiesel to the lineup