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You Could Once Get a Manual BMW SUV

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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3 COMMENTS

  1. I had a used ’03 X5 manual back in ’05 for a year — fun to drive the sweet 3.0 but the 5-speed was not ideal with a really low 1st gear for “off-roading” and 5th wasn’t tall enough for the highway so revs were kind of annoyingly high. I did love the unusual light green exterior color with cool light olive green seats and the beautiful light-colored wood — a very stunning interior.

  2. Waiting for both the X3 and the N55 engine to drop in value a little more. I think that would make a great not really a rally car. Rally car.

  3. That’s my daily! I’ve got a manual 2008 3.0 si which has 268 HP. It’s a really great car if you’ve got to have a manual and lug the family around. 

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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More
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