BMW Marks 15th Anniversary of Building SUVs

Before BMW expanded its lineup of X-badged SUVs into the broad range of vehicles we know today, it all started with one model, the BMW X5, introduced 15 years ago in 1999. As BMW's first-ever SUV, the X5 was a significant step in the company's history, and BMW X models now make up around a third of the company's sales.

The Roundel brand's use of the letter X actually started much earlier than the X5. Originally, an "X" on the end of a model name signified the addition of all-wheel drive, which began in the 1980s with cars like the BMW 325ix. Then, when BMW went to create its first SUV, X5 was a natural choice for the name of this important model, as the first X5 shared its platform with the 5 Series sedan and offered all-wheel drive.

The BMW X3 was the next X model to debut in 2004, and this 3 Series-based SUV was one of the first compact luxury crossovers to enter the market, preceding competitors like the Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLK by a few years.

Today, five different BMW vehicles wear the X moniker, ranging from X1 all the way up to X6. The X6, a coupe-like version of the X5, joined the lineup in 2008 and the X1 compact crossover that slotted in below the X3 in 2009. BMW even brought its M performance line into the X stable with the X5 M and X6 M high-performance SUVs that packed 555 hp from a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 engine.

More recently, BMW added an X4 model that takes the concept of the X6 and applies it to the X3. The X5 that started it all is already in its third generation, and the X3 and X6 have already entered into their respective second-generation models. Altogether, this X lineup has sold over 3.3 million vehicles since the X5's arrival in 1999.

X will continue to grow going forward, as BMW has confirmed that an X7 model is on its way. This three-row, large luxury SUV will be built in BMW's Spartanburg, South Carolina plant along with the X3, X4, X5, and X6 models, and should feature a range of six-cylinder and V-8 engines when it debuts for the 2017 model year.

Click through to the photo gallery to see how the BMW X lineup has evolved over the years.

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