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2004 BMW X3 Sport Utility Crossover

X3 4dr AWD 2.5i

Starting at | Starting at 17 MPG City - 24 MPG Highway

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  • $30,300 original MSRP
Printable Version

2004 BMW X3 Sport Utility Crossover

Printable Version

2004 BMW X3 Sport Utility Crossover

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2004 BMW X3

Source: MSN Autos

Don't tell BMW that Americans are buying and driving bigger and ever more brutish sport-utility vehicles.

The German automaker is going the other direction, introducing a new SUV, the X3, that's slightly smaller on the outside than its X5 SUV and has much the same styling.

Based on a modified BMW sedan platform, the X3 comes as a five-door hatchback with standard all-wheel drive.

Powered by a choice of six-cylinder engines, the X3 sits up some from the road for good visibility, but has a lower center of gravity than you'd expect and a suspension that works to reduce body roll so drivers can enjoy spirited BMW road performance.

Best of all, with a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, around $31,000, the X3 is at least $10,000 less than BMW's X5.

"The X3 is probably the vehicle that will bring us the most new customers of any new car we've introduced" in recent years, said Tom Purves, chairman of BMW of North America.

Specifically, BMW hopes to lure younger families looking for SUVs or crossover vehicles priced from the high $20,000s into the high $30,000s.

Rugged off-roading not planned
BMW officials describe the X3's capability as "all road" rather than off-road, which means it's suited more for on-road and dirt path performance, not the big-rock-strewn Rubicon Trail in California's high Sierra.

"If the trail to your house in the woods has some rough stuff, there's no problem with the X3," Rich Brekus, manager of product planning and strategy, assured me. "But if you want to crush boulders, you should get yourself a Hummer."

Certainly, the X3's all-wheel-drive system, called xDrive, can help provide improved traction when needed.

It uses electronics to manage how torque is distributed among the wheels via a multi-disc clutch.

The X3's xDrive—I wish BMW would find a different letter than "x" to use—doesn't have a really low gear for rugged off-roading.

Instead, this vehicle is tuned not just for traction but for improved, stable driving dynamics for which BMWs are famous.

For example, in typical BMW fashion, 60 percent of the driving torque during normal driving is always sent to the X3's rear wheels to help give a rear-wheel-drive bias. (BMW officials insist that front-engine/rear-wheel-drive vehicles provide the ultimate driving experience.)

The X3's torque, or power, can be redirected amongst the wheels, depending on what sensors are telling the system about steering angle, how each wheel is rotating, the vehicle's lateral acceleration and rotation around its center, as well as whether the brake pedal is depressed.

So the 40 percent of the power going to the front wheels can increase or decrease, when circumstances require, in just tenths of a second. And if necessary, the electronic stability control system can layer in its participation, too, to reduce engine power and/or brake a wheel and help a driver regain control.

The system's operation isn't noticeable in regular driving.

In fact, I had to get the back end of the X3 to break free for the start of a skid, on a dirt road, before I really felt the system working.

Impressively, the all-wheel-drive system then tucked the rear end back in with careful power management. I noticed that as this quick and efficient response occurred, I had just started to change the direction of my steering to counter the skid. The wily xDrive beat me to it.

Later, when the system noticed I was getting farther out of line during another maneuver, the stability control system came in to slow the vehicle momentarily.

Note, though, that stability control and all-wheel drive can't save a driver who's really gone beyond the limits of sanity, or physics.

No mean machine
BMW officials acknowledge some Americans want a mean-machine look in their SUVs.

Many also want something that's classy and upscale, rather than hulking and intimidating.

So the X3, with its traditional BMW kidney-shaped grille in front and driver-oriented interior, won't be mistaken for anything but a BMW.

In fact, it might be confused with BMW's first SUV, the X5.

Dimensions are surprisingly similar. The X3 wheelbase is not quite an inch shorter than the X5, and the X3's overall length is just 4 inches shorter. Oddly, cargo space at the back of the vehicle is greater in the X3 by 2 cubic feet than it is in the X5—71 cubic feet in the X3 vs. 69 in the X5.

BMW officials said they're not concerned that someone shopping for an X5 will wind up deciding on the lower-priced X3, instead, but I'm not so sure.

This is especially true if the shopper is looking for six-cylinder power, which is available in both the X5 and the lighter-weight X3.

Odds and ends
I sat up high enough in the X3 to look over cars in front of me, but my view around large SUVs and pickups was blocked.

The tester had the upscale, 3.0-liter inline six cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission.

Note that few SUVs of this size are offered with a six-speed manual.

The engine, which also is used in the new BMW 5-Series sedan, generates 225 horsepower and 214 lb-ft of torque at 3500 rpm in silky smooth fashion, but premium unleaded is the required fuel.

I didn't test the entry-level engine—a 184-horse 2.5-liter inline six cylinder with 175 lb-ft of torque. But the heavy weight of the X3—more than 4,000 pounds—was well managed by the larger engine.

The six speed had a satisfying feel, and I was surprised at how much engine power came on when I was in sixth gear and starting a easy mountain grade. There's a good amount of power to be found via every gear here, and you don't always have to downshift to get it.

Fuel economy rating for the manual transmission model with 3.0-liter engine is only 17 miles a gallon in city driving, though. This is the same city rating as a Ford Explorer with two-wheel drive, six-cylinder engine and automatic transmission.

There was wind noise in the X3 at highway speeds, and this was on a model that had roof rails only, not the crossbars.

The optional panorama roof gives even back-seat riders a nice view up to the sky. But note the roof opens just halfway.

The clumsy and often-lambasted iDrive interior control knob that's in some other BMWs isn't in the X3, thank goodness.

The ride can convey a good number of road bumps to passengers, even when the vehicle doesn't have the optional, stiffer, sport suspension.

The X3 is not exactly a quiet ride, either, as I could hear the engine readily when I pressed the accelerator.

Buyers should watch how many extras they put on the X3 because prices can soar into the upper $30,000s quickly.

Printable Version

2004 BMW X3 Sport Utility Crossover

Safety Features & Equipment

Braking & Traction

4-Wheel ABS Std
Traction/Stability Control Std

Passenger Restraint

Driver Air Bag Std
Passenger Air Bag Std
Side Air Bag Std
Rear Body Side Air Bag Opt

Road Visibility

HID Headlights Opt
Fog Lamps Opt
Electrochromic Rearview Mirror Opt
Intermittent Wipers Opt
Variable Inter. Wipers Opt
Rain Sensing Wipers Opt

Accident Prevention

Rear Parking Aid Opt

Security

Telematics Opt
Printable Version

2004 BMW X3 Sport Utility Crossover

BMW Certified Pre-Owned Warranty  help
Certified Pre-Owned Warranty
To be eligible for Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) status, vehicles generally must be recent models with relatively low mileage. CPO vehicles must also pass a detailed inspection, outlined by the manufacturer, which is measured by the number of inspected points.
Warranty coverage can vary from one manufacturer to the next. While most certified pre-owned programs transfer and extend the existing new car warranty terms, others offer a warranty that simply represents an additional year and mileage value. Always check with the manufacturer for the specific warranties they offer.
Common features and benefits of Certified Pre-Owned warranties include:
Age/Mileage Eligibility
To even be considered for certification, a car must be a recent model year and have limited mileage. The exact requirements are established by individual manufacturers.
Lease Term Certified
Some manufacturers offer certified pre-owned cars for lease. The length of the lease is often shorter than a new car lease, but it will cost you less.
Point Inspection
These inspections entail a comprehensive vehicle test to ensure that all parts are in excellent working order. The point inspection list is simply a numbered list of exactly what parts of the car are examined. While many inspections range from a 70- to 150-point checklist, most are very similar and are performed using strict guidelines. Ask your local dealer about specific details.
Return/Exchange Program
Some manufacturers offer a very limited return or exchange period. Find out if you will get the sales tax and licensing/registration fees back should you return or exchange the car.
Roadside Assistance
Most certified pre-owned programs offer free roadside service in case your car breaks down while still under warranty.
Special Financing
Reduced-rate loans are available through many certified pre-owned programs. Manufacturer-backed inspections and warranties help eliminate the risks involved with buying pre-owned, so buyers who qualify can take advantage of the great offers.
Transferable Warranty
When a new car warranty transfers with the certification of the car and remains eligible for the next owner, it is known as a transferable warranty. Once the original transferable warranty expires, an extended warranty takes effect.
Warranty Deductible
This is the amount for which you are responsible when repair work is performed under the warranty. Some manufacturers require a deductible while others don't, so always ask.

Every Certified Pre-Owned BMW comes with a protection plan designed to give you the ultimate peace-of-mind.

All Certified Pre-Owned BMW vehicles are exceptional, as are our two tiers of certification:

-BMW Certified Pre-Owned: Covers you for 2 years/50,000 miles¹ after the expiration of the 4-year/50,000-mile New Vehicle/SAV Limited Warranty for a total of 6 years/100,000 miles¹. This includes 24/7 Roadside Assistance and BMW AssistTM Emergency Call, which includes automatic collision notification, and TeleService

-BMW Certified Pre-Owned Elite: These are newer model year, lower mileage (more than 300 miles but less than 15,001 miles) vehicles. This warranty covers you for 1 year/25,000 miles¹ after the expiration of the 4-year/50,000-mile New Vehicle/SAV Limited Warranty or for a total of 5 years/75,000 miles¹. This includes 5 years of 24/7 Roadside Assistance and BMW AssistTM Emergency Call, which includes automatic collision notification, and TeleService.

Vehicles must pass a rigorous pre-certification inspection conducted by BMW certified technicians.

For complete program details, visit cpo.bmwusa.com.

¹ Whichever comes first
Age/Mileage Eligibility 5 years / 60,000 miles
Lease Term Certified Yes
Point Inspection View & Download the BMW Certified Pre-Owned Inspection Checklist
Return/Exchange Program No
Roadside Assistance Yes
Special Financing Yes
Transferrable Warranty Yes
Warranty Deductible $50

Learn more about certified pre-owned vehicles

Printable Version

2004 BMW X3 Sport Utility Crossover

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