2011 BMW X3: First Look, U.S. Version Page 2

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Growing up and out

The 2011 BMW X3 grows a bit larger--as it can, now that there's an X1 slotted beneath it. The X3 is nearly 3.4 inches longer overall, 1.1 inches wider, sits 0.5 inches taller and has that same numeric increase in ground clearance. Much of the added length is made available in the rear seats, where the X3 has been mid-pack with other luxury utes like the Cadillac SRX, Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class. With seating for five, the X3 also now has a large 19-cubic-foot rear storage area that swells to 56.6 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded down. On U.S. versions, the rear seats split 60:40, or optionally, in 40:20:40 segments for better flexibility.

Safety features include all the usual airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability systems. In Sport mode, drivers of a navigation-and-iDrive-equipped X3 can customize that Sport mode for differing levels of stability control.

Other features of the X3 include a large 8.8-inch LCD screen on navigation-equipped vehicles. Those X3s also get new BMW ConnectedDrive functions, which haven't been confirmed just yet--though European models have access to full Internet connectivity. BMW's teased us with photos of a headrest-mounted Apple iPad, so we're eager to see how it's integrated into the entertainment systems.

Production of the 2011 X3 will kick off shortly at BMW's Spartanburg plant, with the first shipments hitting dealerships by late 2010. BMW's sold more than 600,000 thus far around the world; bringing it to the U.S. means more production jobs here, where more than 150,000 have been sold since its introduction in 2005. It goes on sale before the end of the year.

We'll be driving the 2011 BMW X3 soon--stay with us at MotorAuthority for a first drive, and make sure to come back  over the next two weeks as we bring you all our coverage from the 2010 Paris Auto Show.

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