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2011 BMW X3 - Australia Photo:
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Malcolm Flynn | Aug, 21 2012 | 2 Comments

BMW will strengthen its battle against the top-selling Audi Q5 range by offering an entry level rear-wheel-drive version of its X3 SUV for the first time.

Set for European markets only at this stage, the model will be badged ‘sDrive18d’, driven by a down-tuned version of the same 2.0 litre turbodiesel found in local xDrive20d models.

A 105kW/360Nm tune will be unique to the model, with a six-speed manual as the sole transmission choice.

The sDrive18d will be priced at €36,200 (AU$42,700), making for a new entry point around four percent more affordable than the current xDrive20i, at €37,800 (AU$44,700).

This de-tuned driveline strategy has worked well at the lower end of the price scale: BMW offers a RWD version of the smaller X1 from launch, while several other brands offer small models in FWD form.

Volvo’s XC60 is the only direct competition for the X3 that has offered a 2WD option to date, while the larger Lexus RX has recently become available in 2WD RX270 form also.

These models carry not only purchase-price benefits, but their lighter weight and reduced driveline drag can also bring savings through lower fuel use.

BMW claims a nine percent improvement in fuel economy (European cycle) compared with the manual-equipped AWD xDrive20d model.

The X3’s main rival, the top-selling Audi Q5, continues to be available only with quattro AWD in all markets.

 

Australia

Speaking with TMR today, BMW Australia’s Piers Scott has confirmed that there are no current plans to offer a RWD X3 variant on the local market, though he could not rule out such a model in future.

One key reason is the European sDrive18d’s manual-only transmission option, compared with the presently auto-only Australian X3 range.

“The RWD X1 models are selling well here so there is some precedent for such a variation,” Mr Scott said.

 
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