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BMW X5 And X3 Get Enticing Updates for 2006

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Story by Trevor Hofmann

BMW might not have invented the sport utility segment, but when its X5 sport “activity” vehicle debuted in 1999 as a 2000 model it introduced a higher level of refinement and sportier driving dynamics than had ever been offered in the segment before. A great deal has changed since then, however, with the premium mid-size SUV category now being one of the most hotly contested in the automotive industry. BMW made sure its X5 would remain a segment leader when it updated its styling and added features for the 2004 model year, and the fact that the Spartanburg, North Carolina, plant produced its 500,000th example on June 10 of this year shows popularity, which has never been this vehicle’s problem. For 2006, X5 changes are minor, with the base-level 3.0i getting two new paint colours and Servotronic steering added to the optional

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Premium Package. Incidentally, Servotronic optimizes steering effort at parking speeds. The mid-level X5 4.4i gets two additional paint colours as well, plus 18-inch double-spoke alloy wheels as standard equipment. Lumbar support in the front seats is now standard, too. The top-line X5 4.8i receives a standard 6-disc CD changer with MP3 compatibility but otherwise carries forward unchanged. The big news for BMW’s SUV lineup, or as BMW would say, “SAV” lineup, which is a clever and fitting acronym meaning Sport Activity Vehicle, is a revised X3. While all models get the option of Servotronic steering, top-line 3.0i models get new, partial body-colour M Aerodynamic front and rear bumpers that really enhance the vehicle’s athletic lines. There’s also an optional M Sport Package now available which upgrades the X3 with a sport suspension,

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sport seats, a sport steering wheel, 18- inch double-spoke alloy wheels, an anthracite roofliner and M Aerodynamics. The X3, named the Best New Sport Utility Vehicle for 2005 by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), solidifies BMW’s reputation for top-tier driving dynamics. Its xDrive all-wheel-drive system is second to none, and surprisingly high ground clearance combined with Hill Decent Control—which mimics a low gearing range when traveling down steep grades—gives the sporty SUV impressive off-road capabilities. Just the ticket for weekend drives. Both the X3 and X5 are respected as leaders in the sport utility crossover market segment, and the upgrades to the 2006 model year only enhance their positions at the top of their respective compact and mid-size categories

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