First Drive: 2011 BMW X3

Matt Phenix
#BMW, #X3

As was its predecessor (and all of its rivals, come to think of it), the new X3 is more a gifted all-roader than a bona fide off-roader, although 8.4 inches of ground clearance and the ability to ford almost twenty inches of water aren't too shabby. Over a few miles on some hilly two-tracks in rural Georgia, the new X3 acquitted itself quite well, with generous wheel travel over ruts and rocks and impressive tenacity on loose sand and gravel.

The 2011 X3 xDrive28i starts at $37,625. That's a skosh more than a rear-wheel-drive Mercedes GLK350 ($36,375) or a Quattro-equipped Audi Q5 2.0T ($36,075) but less than the 2010 X3 30i ($39,725). The X3 xDrive35i rolls for $41,925, and although it's well-equipped right off the rack, BMW is keen to breathe new life into a high-margin car-buying trend: the special order. The company has concocted a rather enticing haute-couture program for the X3 that should resonate with its younger, tech-savvier buyers.

As little as four weeks after the usual check-box order process at their local dealership, buyers retrieve their new X3 at BMW's sparkling and newly expanded factory in Spartanburg, South Carolina, a visit that includes a production-line tour, a one-night stay with meals, and driving instruction at the BMW Performance Center. To make the game even more appealing, special-orderers can choose from two exclusive shades of leather upholstery and three metallic paint colors (including the only shade of red). Buyers even receive video baby pictures of their X3 rolling down the line. Special order, indeed.

The Specs
On Sale: January
Price: $37,625/$41,925 (xDrive28i/xDrive35i)
Engines: 3.0L I-6, 240 hp, 221 lb-ft; 3.0L turbo I-6, 300 hp, 300 lb-ft
Drive: 4-wheel

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Where is the diesel version?

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