BMW claims the X3 as the original premium compact crossover, though it probably owes a lot to the midsize 1999 Lexus RX300, which was arguably the first attempt at finding the right-sized crossover to offer up to five people every sybaritic feature known to man at the time. It's an amorphous segment, giving comfortably well-heeled consumers everything they want and nothing they don't need. It's neither car nor truck. It's hard to inject passion into something like that.
With this second generation, Bavarian Motor Works has moved production of the X3 from Magna-Steyr's Graz, Austria, assembly plant to the sprawling Greer, South Carolina, plant (in Spartanburg County), which also assembles the X5 and X6 for the world. Appropriately, with BMW's $750-million factory expansion, the U.S. plant becomes supplier of sport/utility vehicles - sorry, "sport/activity" vehicles -- for all markets. All BMW SUVs, except the new X1, which has a lower height - it's as much tall station wagon as short SUV - and is smaller with a less well-appointed interior than the X3, are built there.
This means Spartanburg will build X3s with 2.0-liter turbodiesels and 2.0-liter gas fours, and six-speed manual gearboxes. Every one of these will be shipped from North America, though. There are two engine choices at launch: the naturally aspirated 3.0-liter inline six in the xDrive 28i and the turbocharged version of the same in the xDrive 35i. Yes, BMW brass teased they're considering a diesel X3 for the U.S. market, though it's more likely to be the same 3.0 I-6 used in the 335d and X5 diesels.
The 3.0-liter engines come with BMW's latest "efficient dynamics" technology, including direct gas injection and Valvetronic. North America will not get its stop/start technology, in which the engine shuts off at stoplights and stop signs, only to start right up when you lift your foot from the brake pedal. Our limited drive, in the wilds of exurbia Atlanta, was in a Euro spec car with stop/start, because BMW wants our reaction and because Spartanburg is building European-spec models first. Just be careful to shut off the engine if we're stopped for speeding, we were warned. If the engine starts up while revenue-raising law enforcement is studying our licenses, the officer could get nervous, thinking we're about to flee the scene.