BMW X3 Takes Fight To Freelander
It's big brother has already been a huge success – and now BMW is hoping the public will vote out the Land Rover Freelander in favour of its new housemate, the X3.
The German company's compact off-roader has broken cover, and it's hoping to win over the nation in its quest to take the grand prize. The current issue of Auto Express magazine carries spyshots of the X3 undergoing testing, and and they show how BMW's baby SUV takes styling cues from the X5, as well as the 3-Series on which it's based.
Traditional trademarks such as the 'kidney' grille and short front and rear overhangs follow the family look, but the deep flanks of the car in the photos hide more radical styling. Penned by Chris Bangle, who also designed the controversial 7-Series, CS1 and forthcoming Z4, the X3 has a 'flame-sided' appearance, with deep scallops cut into the lower bodywork, flared wheelarches and a squared-off rear.
The X3 will be built in Graz, Austria, and is due to go on sale in 2004. It will be powered by a range of engines carried over from the 3-Series. Be-cause of the extra weight and in-creased fuel consumption, the most popular versions are expected to be the 2.0 and 3.0-litre diesels, offering 170bhp and 183bhp respectively. A four-cylinder 170bhp 2.0-litre Valve-tronic petrol unit will power the entry-level model, while six-pot 2.5-litre 193bhp and 3.0-litre 230bhp engines are to be fitted to more luxurious versions. A 2.4-litre Valvetronic four-cylinder, developed for the 1-Series range-topper, will be fitted later.
Like the X5, the newcomer is expected to excel on tarmac. Adaptive suspension will ensure it remains stable through bends and offer a firm yet refined ride. All X3s will use an innovative permanent four-wheel-drive system. The set-up was developed by Land Rover under BMW's tenure, and until the two firms went their separate ways in 2000, the X3 was due to share its platform with the next-generation Freelander.
But now Land Rover is under the control of Ford, the Freelander will soldier on until 2005, when it's likely to share components with the next-generation Ford Maverick instead. Meanwhile, the clever driveline means the X3 will be a competent performer off-road, despite its agile road manners.
Active traction control will adjust to rugged or slippery terrain, while the adaptive suspension will become more supple if crossing rough surfaces. But the X3 will lose nothing in terms of refinement. Like the 3-Series, it will feature one of the best laid out cabins on the market, with peerless build quality. The model also marks another step in BMW's plan to increase its presence in mainstream markets. As with the 1-Series, due to be unveiled at next year's Frankfurt Motor Show, the X3 will be pitched directly against some less prestigious brands in a bid to win over buyers who wouldn't otherwise think they could afford a BMW. For that reason, the entry-level car is likely to start at Ł20,000 and take on the Toyota RAV4, Nissan X-Trail and Jeep Cherokee, as well as the Freelander. The X3 is expected to make its public debut at the 2004 Detroit Motor Show. Craig Cheetham
Article from: Auto Express