2004 BMW X3 3.0i
2004 BMW X3 3.0i; photo by Paul Williams. Click image to enlarge

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By Chris Chase

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The BMW X3 was introduced for the 2004 model year as a smaller alternative to the brand’s original crossover, the X5. When it went on sale, the X3 shared its compact, luxury crossover status with just one other vehicle, the Land Rover Freelander. It wasn’t until 2007 that it would have another competitor in the Acura RDX. The only other vehicles that might be seen as true competitors were fully-loaded versions of more affordable crossovers like the Ford Escape or Subaru Outback, for just a couple of examples.

By 2009, Audi had joined the fray with its Q5, and the 2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class was available in calendar-year 2009 too.

The original X3 was powered by either of a pair of inline six-cylinders, one being a 2.5-litre (184 hp; 2.5i model) and the other a 3.0-litre (225 hp; 3.0i model), both borrowed from the 3 Series sedan line. In 2007, the engine lineup was revised: the 2.5-litre was dropped, and a 215-hp version of the original 3.0-litre became the base engine, while a 260-hp motor was the upgrade. The model designations were changed to reflect this, with the base model now known as the 3.0i, and the more powerful version called the 3.0si. For 2009, the base 3.0i model was dropped, and the remaining model renamed as the xDrive 30i.

2004 BMW X3 3.0i
2004 BMW X3 3.0i; photo by Paul Williams. Click image to enlarge

Initial transmission choices were a six-speed manual that could be optioned to a five-speed automatic with either engine. In 2007, the five-speed auto was dropped in favour of a six-speed unit.

Performance at the pumps has more to do with transmission choice than with what engine you prefer. A 2005 X3 3.0i was rated at 13.8/8.8 L/100 km (city/highway) with the manual transmission. Those figures were nominally higher than a manual-equipped 2.5i model, but choosing the automatic with the larger engine means a seven per cent bump in the city fuel consumption rating. The penalty is smaller with the lesser engine, and the difference in highway consumption is much less severe.

For 2007 models, with their revised engine lineup and new six-speed auto, fuel consumption is lower, with ratings for all models coming in between 12.2/8.2 and 12.5/8.4 L/100 km (city/highway), regardless of engine or transmission choice.

Consumer Reports notes that earlier X3s are actually the better choice, due to fewer serious trouble spots. Cars from 2004 through 2006 get a better-than-average used vehicle rating, while 2007-2008 models are average, or below-average.

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