Earlier this summer, BMW gave us a first look at the 2011 X3 luxury crossover vehicle. Now that our first drive in the newest German ute is coming in a few weeks, BMW's released the U.S. specifications for the vehicle, in advance of its world premiere at the 2010 Paris Auto Show.

The American version maintains all of the sleeker look seen in photos released in July. There's a much more dynamic shape at hand, with the sheetmetal gaining a few creases and curves that call to mind BMW's brand-defining 3-Series sedans. The contours are more pronounced; there's an upswept crease across its flanks; and in back, the X3 now has LED taillamps to call attention to its more pert rear end.

Inside the X3 grows more luxurious than the current car, which has steadily improved in the first generation from the original drab plastic interior. The dash arcs to envelop controls and angles them at the driver, adding to the more sedan-like air surrounding the new SUV. BMW says it's paid special attention to upgrading the interior materials, too.

In the U.S., BMW will offer the 2011 X3 with a choice of two six-cylinder engines. The base X3 xDrive28i is normally aspirated, and churns out 240 horsepower and 230 pound-feet of torque, which the automaker says should be good for a 0-60 mph cruise of 6.7 seconds--faster than the prior edition and its similar engine.

The powerful alternative is the single-turbo version of the same engine, which is shared with other BMW vehicles. With turbocharging, the engine spins out 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. Acceleration drops to 5.5 seconds to 60 mph, and top speed hits a limited 150 mph--numbers that approach those of the 3-Series sedan, not to mention a few generations of M3 derivatives.

The sole transmission this time around is an eight-speed automatic. There's no manual option, but the automatic splits its effort to help with the improved performance. Lower gears give it the grunt at take-off and in urban settings, while the higher gears are staged for better fuel economy--which BMW hasn't announced yet. The torque converter locks up at lower engine speeds, an effect which impressed us in the larger X5 crossover with the same powertrain.

The X3's suspension has been revamped with a MacPherson strut and multi-link rear paired with electronic controls to allow drivers to tailor driving feel. Electronic shocks can be adjusted through a Driving Dynamics Control switch located near the gearshift lever; Normal, Sport and Sport Plus modes are offered, and they adjust not only the dampers, but the throttle, transmission and steering feel according to the selected mode. The unchanged xDrive system splits power delivery 40/60 percent, but can push 100 percent of available power to either end of the vehicle when traction control calls for it. Lastly, a Performance Control system holds a 20/80 torque split in heavy cornering, and offers a version of torque vectoring to the rear wheels, by applying brakes to the inside rear rotor, which tightens the cornering radius.

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.