2004 BMW X3 Review, Pricing, and Specs.

2004, BMW, X3

When all other Manufacturers were making bigger and faster vehicles, BMW took the unheard of tack and built a smaller SUV, in size and price - well, sort of.

When all other Manufacturers were making bigger and faster vehicles, BMW took the unheard of tack and built a smaller SUV, in size and price - well, sort of.

The X3, as its name suggests is based on the BMW 3 Series sedans, while the X5 is based on the 5 Series. BMW boasts that the X3 offers the same handling and agility as a 3 series sedan. BMW created this feeling by having a low center of gravity, achieved by running the front drive shaft through the engine's oil pan. What is interesting about the X3 vs. the X5 is that the X3 has about the same amount of passenger space, more cargo space and cost around $10,000 to $16,000 less than an X5. What would make one buy an X5 over an X3 than? A step down in luxury and no V-8 engine.

The X3, as its name suggests is based on the BMW 3 Series sedans, while the X5 is based on the 5 Series. BMW boasts that the X3 offers the same handling and agility as a 3 series sedan. BMW created this feeling by having a low center of gravity, achieved by running the front drive shaft through the engine's oil pan. What is interesting about the X3 vs. the X5 is that the X3 has about the same amount of passenger space, more cargo space and cost around $10,000 to $16,000 less than an X5. What would make one buy an X5 over an X3 than? A step down in luxury and no V-8 engine.

The 2004 BMW X3 is a rear-wheel drive that operates like an all-wheel drive until a multi-plate clutch (MPC) is activated in a system called "xDrive." No figuring this out, it's all done electronically and doesn't need you to turn it on or off. The MPC operates with minimum slip under normal driving conditions for a 40/60-torque split, front to rear. The X3 functions in this rear-wheel drive feel under normal driving conditions, constantly monitoring until it hits treacherous road then the traction and handling abilities kick in. The xDrive regulates the torque between the front and rear wheels, preventing oversteer or understeer, resulting in a zen-like balance. This system will come out in the 2004 X5 model.

The X3 also comes standard with BMW's Hill Descent Control (HDC) and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) systems. Dynamic Stability Control can be switched off if a driver wishes.

Powertrain offerings are the same in the X3 as they are for the 3 Series, namely the choice of a 2.5-liter or 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine. The X3 2.5-liter delivers 184 horsepower 175 pounds-foot of torque while the X3 3.0-liter produces 225 horsepower at 5,900 rpm and 214 pounds-foot of torque at 3,500 rpm. Both models come standard with a six-speed manual transmission. A five-speed Steptronic automatic transmission is available as an option.

Taking to the trails is easier with the optional interior bike rack integrated into the all-new BMW X3 Sports Activity Vehicle. The innovative bicycle carrier system complements the ready-for-anything spirit of the BMW X3 driver. The system is able to transport up to two mountain or racing bicycles while protecting them from the elements or possible theft and also eliminates problems associated with low overhead clearance.

BMW's new bike rack features two adjustable aluminum fastening rails that are mounted on the rear cargo floor. The interior bike rack system is designed to hold one or two bicycles utilizing special parts designed to work with the built-in cargo fastening rails. The bicycle is positioned upright and firmly attached to the rails using lateral traverses. The front wheel is then secured to the bicycle frame with lashing straps.

The interior bike rack retails for $275. The interior cargo rails are standard in the X3 3.0i, and on the X3 2.5i when equipped with the optional premium package.

As is usual in most European cars, the cupholders don't suit the American audience. Clumsy, but they're better than they used to be. Europeans have chided Americans, saying they shouldn't be drinking so much in a car anyways, that it takes their mind and eye off the road. One still has to spend too much time with their eyes off the road when they are trying to reconfigure the hot or cold air. The X3 we drove rattled in the 2nd row doors, so make sure to test drive your car before you buy one. We think it was just a fluke, but listen for rattles.

In many ways the X3 appears to be a more practical vehicle than the X5. The X3 was designed in BMW's Designworks studio in California but it is being built in Austria. BMW expects it to sell better than the X5 in Europe. It should also appeal to those buyers in the US who need more cargo room and less passenger room. And don't forget, it's a BMW - one of the best driving, mass produced sports cars around.

Acura MDX, Infiniti FX35, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Land Rover Discovery, Lexus RX330.

By Lou Ann Hammond
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Images of the 2004, BMW X3

2004 BMW X3
2004 BMW X3
Interior integrated bike rack
Interior integrated bike rack