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The BMW X3 is a compact luxury crossover SUV manufactured by German automaker BMW since 2003. Based on the BMW 3 Series platform, and now in its second generation, BMW markets the crossover as a Sports Activity Vehicle, the company’s proprietary descriptor for its X-line of vehicles. The first generation X3 was designed by BMW in conjunction with Magna Steyr of Graz, Austria—who also manufactured all X3s under contract to BMW. BMW manufactures the second generation X3 at their Spartanburg plant in South Carolina, United States.
The first generation BMW X3, internally designated as the E83, was produced from 2003 to 2010 and based on theBMW 3 Series platform. The E83 was designed by BMW in conjunction with Magna Steyr of Graz, Austria—who also manufactured all first generation X3s under contract to BMW.
As a precursor to the X3, BMW presented the xActivity concept vehicle at the Detroit Auto Show in 2003—based on the 3 Series platform and featuring a vestigial frame-structure convertible roof with reinforced, longitudinal rails connect the A-pillars to the rear of the car on both sides, eliminating B- or C-pillars and creating a distinct profile.
The X3 premiered in September 2003 at the Frankfurt Auto Show (Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung), sharing its rear suspension with the E46 330xi and using an automatic four-wheel drive system marketed asxDrive. All X3 models feature BMW’s all wheel drive system, with a default 40:60 torque split between the front and rear axles and the ability to direct all torque to either axle. The system used an electronically controlled multiple-plate clutch to enable infinitely adjustable, fully variable distribution of torque from front to rear with the capability of up to 100 percent of engine torque going to either axle. BMW markets the crossover as a Sports Activity Vehicle, the company’s descriptor for its X-line of vehicles.
The X3 was conceived to combine the agility of a compact model with the driving experience of the company’s X5. The X3 featured an upright, high H-point seating configuration, marketed as “command seating”. Styling exhibited interacting concave and convex surfacing, characteristic for the company at the time along with a reinterpretedHofmeister kink.
BMW upgraded the model in 2005 and facelifted the model in 2007, with revised body bumpers, engine, interior trim, and suspension.
The X3 3.0i won the Canadian Car of the Year Best Sports Utility Vehicle award for 2005. The X3 was initially criticised for its harsh ride, austere interior, lack of off-road capability and high price.