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E83 X3

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.

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