BMW has released the first official photos of its next-generation X3 crossover which will make its formal debut this October at the Paris Auto Show. Even cloaked in its latest iteration of factory camouflage, it's apparent that the second incarnation of BMW's compact soft-roader has grown a bit in every key dimension and taken on more of the X5's styling influences. Like its larger brother, the next-gen X3 will be produced here in the firm's plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The facility -- which also serves as the sourcepoint for the X6 and Z4 models -- has undergone a $3 billion renovation to prepare for this latest acquisition. In the past, the X3's home had been the Magna-Steyr plant in Graz, Austria.
While BMW hasn't yet filled in all of the info blanks about a vehicle that will go on sale in Europe late this year and in the U.S. next spring (likely as a 2012 model), we can tell you that this five-passenger SUV has been treated to a fairly comprehensive upgrading regimen that not only adds a new sense of style and quality to the cabin but more space for both people and cargo. Ride and handling also promise to be more refined courtesy of its stiffer unit body structure coupled with mildly but meaningfully stretched wheelbase and track dimensions. BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive plus a full array of electronic chassis and stability systems will be on hand to enhance the X3's all-season surefootedness with the firm's multi-mode Driving Dynamics Control setup and Dynamic Performance Control torque-vectoring rear axle offered as options. There's still no final decision as to the fate of a rumored rear-drive model.
Initially, this new BMW will come to America in an X3 xDrive28i configuration powered by the existing 3.0-liter naturally aspirated inline-six rated around 260 horsepower. However, an upline xDrive35i with a twin-scroll turbocharged version of the engine that's expected to make in excess of 300 ponies will be available later. Both are to be paired with the mileage-enhancing ZF eight-speed automatic transmission currently used in the X5. There's also talk of a turbodiesel six and ActiveHybrid versions of the X3 at some point, although neither has been confirmed. The new BMW X3 is scheduled to make its first stateside appearance in December at the Los Angeles Auto Show.