Bavarian Motor Works, or Bayerische Motoren Werke is a German automobile, motorcycle and engine manufacturing company that was founded in 1916. BMW also owns and produces the MINI brand, and they are the parent company of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. BMW is well known for their performance and their luxury vehicles. Following WWI, BMW had to quit producing aircraft engine production, and the company shifted to motorcycle production in 1923, followed by automobiles in 1928-29.

The BMW logo is circular blue and white and is portrayed by BMW as the movement of an aircraft propeller which signifies the white blades cutting through the blue sky. This was an interpretation that BMW adopted in 1929 for convenience. The emblem came about from the circular Rapp Motorenwerke company logo from which the BMW Company grew, meshed with the white and blue colors of the Bavarian flag, reversed to produce the BMW rounded. BMW has mentioned recently that the blue and white company logo didn't represent a spinning propeller, but was actually meant to show the colors of the Free State of Bavaria.

In 2003 BMW presented the precursor to the X3 as a concept car unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show. Dubbed the xActivity, BMW previewed as a SAV based on the 3 Series platform, but without windows or a vestigal roof.

In 2003 the BMW X3 was introduced and designated as a sports activity vehicle that was based on the BMW 3 series. BMW's first crossover SUV, or SAV; Sports Activity Vehicle was based on the E46/16 3 Series platform. Numerous parts are used in the X3 that were found in the 3 series. In Europe, the X3 was marketed as an off-roader and it benefits from BMW/s xDrive all-wheel drive system. The X3 was equipped with the xDrive which was a system that ensured equal distribution of power from the engine to all four tires. The X3 was initially available with three engines, the 2.5 liter 6-cylinder, the 3 liter 6-cylinder and also 204 horsepower diesel engines.

The BMW X3 came with a variety of exceptional features but the model was also heavily critiqued for a number of failings. The X3's ride wasn't comfortable especially in rugged terrain. The interior was also criticized for being austere, minimalist-like and relying heavily on obviously plastic components, and limited off-road usage, through its heavily road-biased chassis set-up. Many thought the car was also overpriced. A base 2.5i lacked cruise control or automatic headlight and had vinyl upholster, was more than $30,000 in the U.S. Various BMW diehards were also disappointed that the X3 was not being assembled at a BMW factory, but instead was outsourced to Magna Steyr which was based in Graz Austria. Magna Steyr has in fact thought won numerous awards for quality and has also been the highest rated car assembly factory in Europe.

By 2005 the X3 was refurbished with a much more powerful engine and better materials used inside the vehicle. This newest model was now powered with two engines, the 2.5 liter and the 3.0 liter engine along with a smooth inside with more competent materials. The new engine came with six gears that the driver could use while going forward. To expedite a better response from both the driver and the car in case of emergency the brakes and stability control of the car were improved. The suspension was softer and the front fenders were now one piece, instead of the two-piece found on 2004 models.

Also new for 2005, Bluetooth could actually be ordered straight from the factory as part of the Premium Package and functioned without dealer intervention. The interior of the 05 X3 was also upgraded with more consistent plastic panels. Rather than the earlier grey carpeting the new X3 came with carpeting that matched the leather ordered. An ‘Open-Door' indicator was also added.

For 2007 the X3 received a new engine, the same as the BMW 3 series. This new engine was an all new 3.0 liter N52 inline 6-cylinder engine which gave an additional 35 more hp than the previous engine. The 2007 X3 came with a new six automatic gears. The engine and the gear system were completely changed by BMW including an X-drive update, suspension adjustments and an engine upgrade. The vehicle also received a new look on the outside as well. Also new this year was a new bumper and a new headlight. BMW also gave the X3 a new brake system and lights in the rear to warn drivers that the vehicle was stopping. Also new this year was 17 inch tires, a new look steering wheel and new jacks to play new music formats like MP3 and IPODs.

The BMW X3 range was extended with smaller engines including the 4-cylinder petrol and diesel option. The options are now becoming available to countries across Europe, America, Australia and Asia.

2006 X3's were all equipped with a special version of the ‘M' technik body kit as standard. The main difference between the U.S. cars had unpainted door sills and wheel arches. U.S. spec Sport Package 06 X3's received the full ‘M' body kid with painted front, side and rear plastic which was available in the rest of the world as a BMW accessory.

In 2004 a total of 34,604 units were produced, 30,769 in 2005, 31,291 in 2006, 28,058 in 2007, 17,622 in 2008 and 6,067 in 2009.

In 2005 the X3 3.0i was awarded the Canadian Car of the Year Best New Sport Utility Vehicle award.

An X3 that was prepared for rally raid competition, the X3 Cross Country features a 2.9 liter inline-6 twin turbocharged diesel engine.

By Jessica Donaldson

Vehicle information, history, and specifications from concept to production.