BMW has picked up where it left off with the successful X5 and produced the slightly smaller X3 that won’t live in the shadow of its sibling.BMW has picked up where it left off with the successful X5 and produced the slightly smaller X3 that won’t live in the shadow of its sibling.

Interacting concave and convex surfaces, the newly interpreted, classic "Hofmeister kink" in the rear side windows, double kidney grille, as well as the headlights and rear lights show that the X3 has a mixture of X5 styling cues and some unique touches from BMW chief designer Chris Bangle’s design board. Also note the X3’s long wheelbase with short overhangs, sloping roofline and the flared wheel arches.

Measuring 4 565 mm in length, the X3 is 87 mm longer than the 3 Series Touring, but almost 300 mm shorter than the new 5 Series Saloon. The X3, which has a ground clearance of 201 mm, is the only model in the current range of BMW Group vehicles not to be built in a BMW Group plant, but comes off the production line at Magna Steyr Fahrzeugtechnik in the Austrian town of Graz.

The X3 has a double-joint spring strut front axle made of steel, incorporating an anti-roll bar and gas pressure dampers. The rear central-arm axle with twin-sleeve gas-pressure dampers and an anti-roll bar has a dual-elastic final drive mount.

BMW SA will initially offer two straight-six petrol-engined derivatives of the X3, with the two-litre diesel engine to be added later. The 2,5-litre engine produces 141 kW at 6 000 r/min, 245 N.m of torque at 3 500 r/min and BMW claims the 2,5i manual will sprint from zero to 100 km/h in 8,9 seconds, accelerate from 80-120km/h in fourth gear in 8,6 seconds and reach a top speed of 208 km/h.

Developing maximum output of 170 kW, the X3 3,0i is said to accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in 8,1 seconds and from 80 to 120 km/h (in fourth gear) in 7,7 seconds before reaching a top speed in standard trim of 210 km/h. At launch the X3 3,0i comes as standard with a five-speed automatic transmission. The 2,5i variant is kitted with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, while the five-speed automatic transmission is available as an option.

The sophisticated interior and the wide range of equipment in the X3 makes it ideal for active and versatile individualists, the company says. Within the cockpit the two circular instruments are grouped in typical BMW style within an elegant pinnacle, the middle of the dashboard is dominated by the optional 16:9 colour monitor of the navigation system moving up automatically when in use.

Buyers are able to choose from a great many classical and sporting and modern materials and colours to personalise the interior of his – or her – X3. The BMW X3 comes with up to 8 airbags, driver, front passenger and head airbags as well as side airbags at the front all fitted as standard. And at the rear side airbags are available as an option.

Depending on the arrangement of the seats, luggage space can be between 480 litres and 1 560 litres. Folding down the backrest on the asymmetrically split rear seats to provide an almost flat surface, the driver can load up to three mountain bikes into the luggage compartment. And as an option the bikes – or any other cargo, for that matter – can be stowed away by using two optionally available fastening rails with four moving and firmly positioned lashing points in the floor of the luggage compartment.

Small odds and ends can be stored in an additional storage box at the rear, or in map pockets complete with nets in the front doors. The glove compartment has a capacity of 4,5 litres, a 12 V power socket is featured as standard in the luggage compartment and there are two cupholders in the centre console.

The armrest in the centre console offers two separate storage boxes, a flatter compartment at the top housing the optional telephone where fitted and a larger compartment further down accommodating the optionally available six CD player as well as three additional CDs. The rear-seat passengers have access to pockets in the doors, two cupholders and a storage compartment in the centre armrest.

Sports seats are available as an option for both the driver and front passenger. Seat height, backrest and seat angle, fore-and-aft position as well as thigh support are all electrically adjustable. Like all new BMWs, the X3 comes with the Car and Key Memory personalisation functions, but the SUV also has a tyre pressure monitor (TPM), which compares wheel speed in order to monitor air pressure in the tyres and giving the driver both an optical and an acoustic warning in the event of any loss of pressure.

The list of options is vast: Adaptive headlights, bi-xenon headlights, electrochromatic interior mirror (optional – 2,5i, standard – 3,0i), Climate comfort windscreen, two-piece panorama roof, navigation system with DVD, car telephone, BMW Business CD and Professional HiFi systems, Park Distance Control and rain sensing wipers and headlights.

BMW also offers the particularly performance-minded purchaser of the X3 a special Sports Package. Features included in this package are white direction indicators, high-gloss satin chrome window surrounds, and star-spoke 18-inch light-alloy wheels, as well as a leather sports steering wheel and sports seats for both the driver and front passenger. Another package on offer is the Activity Package (includes aluminium running boards, the Panorama glass sliding/tilting sun roof and added storage compartments).