Here’s something you may not know: there was once a time when you could get a BMW SUV with a manual transmission. It’s hard to believe now, given that all BMW SUVs — and the vast majority of BMW cars — have an automatic, but it was, indeed, the case.
The basic situation is this: Back when the X5 came out in 2000, it was one of the very first luxury SUVs on the market, and it was really the first that pitched "performance" as its primary target. Compare this to the Mercedes-Benz M-Class and Land Rover Discovery, which were aimed more at typical suburb commuting and off-roading, respectively.
BMW wanted to make its SUVs as sporty as possible, so that meant a manual transmission. It seems absurd now, but back then, there were very few competitive vehicles one could benchmark to determine whether or not a manual X5 would sell, so they went with what they knew from their car lines, where manuals were still pretty popular.
The result was as predicted: Not many people got the manual. Still, it was offered on the X5 from 2000 all the way until the first-generation ended in 2006. It even changed from a 5-speed to a more desirable 6-speed in 2004. The X3, meanwhile, offered a manual in both its trim levels when it debuted for 2004, the base-level 2.5i with 184 horsepower and the more powerful 3.0i with 225 hp. I’m not entirely sure when the manual went away, but I don’t believe it lasted until the X3 was redesigned for 2011.
Still, it’s a cool footnote — the manual transmission BMW SUV. They’re rare, and they’re hard to find for sale on Autotrader, but they’re out there — and they add a cool wrinkle to the story of the original X3 and X5. Find a BMW X3 for sale or Find a BMW X5 for sale
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