Truck Trend drove only the 35i. Riding on 245/50R18 Pirelli run-flat tires (17-inch wheels will be standard fitment), and equipped with what will be extra-cost Sports Package options - including a Dynamic Drive system which alters damper, throttle and transmission responses, and steering assist levels - the pre-production X3 was very impressive on the Bavarian roads. It rode calmly, steered neatly, accelerated briskly, shifted gears with decisive subtlety, and generally did all the things that inspire driver pleasure.

Not only drivers will appreciate the changes wrought in the new X3. The rear seat is noticeably more spacious and the cargo compartment has grown by almost two-and-a-half cubic feet to 19.4 cu-ft. The luggage space, accessed through a one-piece tailgate (power opening and closing will be an option in the US), is wide and regularly shaped. And, underneath the cloth camo covers designed to frustrate prying eyes, there's a classier instrument panel. For the US market, iDrive, with a small central screen, will be standard. Choosing the navigation option also brings a larger, 8.8-in screen.

The new X3's greater capacity for both passengers and gear is a result of growth. Although based, like the smaller X1 SUV, on the same architecture as BMW's 3 Series, the new X3 has a wheelbase two inches longer than its little brother and more than half an inch longer than the current X3 model. Length has grown by more than three inches, as have front and rear axle tracks, body width is over an inch more, and both height and ground clearance have been increased by half an inch.

Growth in every direction means the X3 sits at the mid point between the X5 and the X1. Asked if the decisions on new X3's size were as simple as averaging the values of X5 and X1, packaging team leader Hans Penzkofer agrees that the process was almost this straightforward.