The BMW X3 is a compact luxury crossover SUV (though BMW advertises it as an SAV, or Sport Activity Vehicle) produced by the German automaker BMW. It is based on the BMW 3-Series automobile platform.
History and development
Along the heels of a very successful and ongoing production run of the BMW X5, BMW decided in the early millennium that it wanted to compete with the likes of the Freelander and other small luxury SUVs just as the X5 had previously done so well in its respective classes. Thus the X3 (internally known as E83), was born.
What thus emerged was a concept unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show in 2003. Dubbed the xActivity, BMW previewed to the public for the first time what a smaller SAV based on a 3 Series platform would look like. The concept had no windows, for the most part no roof, and a sleek futuristic interior. Only the basic shape of the car would emerge as the BMW X3.
Just as BMW used many parts from the E39 5 Series parts bin in the making of the X5, the same occurred in the X3's development, whereby BMW engineers reused 3 series parts. In-fact complete sets of parts came straight out of the E46 330xi, emerging unscathed in the X3 (e.g. rear suspension).
Austrian automotive contractor Magna Steyr of Graz, Austria performed additional development work and has been contracted to manufacture all first-generation X3s.
When the BMW X3 premiered in late 2003, BMW announced that it would be using a new 4 wheel drive system to power it and its bigger brother - The (refreshed) X5. The two key things about xDrive are, first, it being one one of the first technologies used to intervene before the driver was ever aware that the car could be unstable, and second, it being transparent (i.e. unknown) to the driver.
Right from the start, the BMW X3 had been criticized for its harsh ride (due to the run-flat tires, which have made all new BMWs (except those that aren't fitted with them, for example some M-models) have harsh rides), poor interior quality and off-road ability. BMW addressed the first 2 points in 2005, with a slightly softer ride and by matching plastics and carpeting in the 2005 X5s. It has also been criticized for not being built at a BMW factory. However, Magna Steyer, the factory in Austria has won numerous awards for quality and is the highest rated car assembly factory in Europe.
The automotive press however for the most part had mixed views of the X3 ranging all over the spectrum - unusual for BMW, but then again not so unusual for modern BMWs. Jeremy Clarkson even said that the X3 was for people who are clinically insane after his road test of it. He also criticized it for its harsh ride, and showed the poor off-road ability in reality when he took one into a "not very tough" off-road trail. He got stuck multiple times, although he has admitted that he is not a very good off-road driver, but the trail didn't provide options for going from somewhere else, as it was basically a road with off-road trail obstacles in it.