Protests about the environmental and safety records of sport utility vehicles don't seem to be doing much to dissuade automakers from thinking that there's still a lot of life left in the SUV market. Major automakers including Ford, Volkswagen, Chrysler, Nissan, Hyundai and Honda all are planning to introduce new SUV models in the next few years.
Up soonest, though, is one from BMW, the X3, a "baby Bimmer" version of the company's successful X5 line of mid-size luxury SUVs.
BMW has just released the first pictures of the X3, which it prefers to call a "sports activity vehicle," and confirmed that it will be introduced in the United States early next year.
BMW says the X3, to be built at a new plant in Austria, will come in two versions, both offering standard six-speed manual transmissions or optional five-speed automatics.
The X3 3.0i will use BMW's 3.0-liter inline-6 engine, rated at 225 horsepower, and the X5 2.5i will use the toned-down 2.5-liter straight-6 with 184 horsepower. Both models will feature a new all-wheel-drive system, dubbed xDrive, that the company says is adjustable to split torque, front to rear, as needed.
Pricing has not been determined, the company says, but expect the X3 to start at about $33,000.