Beefier and Leaner

2011 BMW X3

The 2010 BMW X3 is about to pass the baton to the long-awaited X3 redesign for the 2011 model year. The first-generation X3 spearheaded the way for the near-luxury mid-sized SUV category in 2004 and spawned a wave of similar vehicles, like the Acura RDX and the Audi Q5. The X3 is labeled an “SAV” or Sport Activity Vehicle by BMW, promising brisk performance from its Bavarian DNA and a taut suspension, giving it more of a sporting character than other SUVs on the road — just like Sting vs. Meatloaf. And even though the new X3 has slightly larger dimensions than the outgoing model (3.3 inches longer, 1.1 inches wider and 1.4 inches taller) it boasts a lower curb weight by nearly 50 pounds.

Ensconced in all new sheet metal, the exterior is evolutionary in design but fresh, with echoes of the new 5 and 7 series sedans by the same maker. Looking at the old and new X3s side-by-side, it’s clear that the design of the second-generation X3 is far more cohesive than the first, especially the headlights which no longer have the upturned corners and the tail lights which are more unified. Another design plus is the larger, more pronounced signature BMW twin kidney grilles, giving the vehicle a more aggressive visage. BMW has also quashed consumer complaints of sub-par interior materials with both aesthetic and tactile upgrades, more than appropriate for this price point and near-luxury segment. The performance is no slouch either, with the 306 hp turbo X3 xDrive35i launching the muscular Teuton to 60 mph in less than six seconds. The entry-level naturally aspirated version, the xDrive28i, will be right behind its big brother. Their diesel sibling, the xDrive 20d, with a 184 hp version of BMW’s 2.0 liter four-cylinder is competently quick as well, and will definitely show up in the European market and possibly the U.S. All three versions put out impressive 0-60 times and top speeds in excess of 130 mph. Soccer moms, hold on to your lattes. Look for these German beauties to roll out early next year.

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By Amos Kwon