SUVs are the fastest selling cars on the road, with the demand for them being higher than ever. It’s odd that SUVs are so highly sought after, as this is probably the worst time in automotive history to drive an SUV. Down economies, melting polar ice caps and fuel prices higher than ever all make for the worst circumstances for the SUV to succeed in. Yet people couldn’t want them more, despite their polar bear killing ways.
You’d figure that as global emissions restrictions grow tighter and fuel prices get higher that automakers would stop building SUVs. The problem is, people buy so damn many of them that automakers need them to survive. Almost each and every automaker on Earth has at least two SUVs in the lineup because they are the bread and butter of each automaker’s sales. BMW is one of those, who currently has more than two.
At the moment, BMW has five SUVs on sale; the X1, X3, X4, X5 and X6. And that’s not including the two M Division variants. And word is, that BMW is planning on another, an X7, to top off the range. That’s quite a lot of SUVs for one car company’s customer clientele. Could there really be a specific customer base for each and every one of those SUVs?
Well, the X4 and X6 are fashion statements. They are sportier, sexier version of their respective X3 and X5 siblings. So those are for people who want an SUV, but have the money to make it look and drive better. So they clearly have their niche markets. The X1 is actually a functional little guy, being an inexpensive, all-wheel drive BMW hatchback, basically. It’s practical and inexpensive and fills a little niche for itself, as a small SUV for a young and active family. But what about the X3 and X5?
Both seem to fit the exact same customer. They’re both pretty traditional SUVs, especially compared to the sleek X4 and X6 and the quirky little X1. Both seat five (with the X5 having the option for seven) with large trunks and both air more on the side of luxury and practicality than performance. At first glance then, the only difference between X3 and X5 customers is what they can afford. Until you dig a little bit deeper that is.
The X3 is by far and away the sportier of the two. It’s smaller, built on a shorter wheelbase, is considerably lighter and a lower downward sloping hoodline. So it’s clear that the X3 is meant to add a bit of a handling bonus to those who purchase it. It also seems to be the more “utility vehicle” of the two. Sit in an X3 and you’ll notice harder material where they’re more likely to get hit and scuffed over time. You’ll also notice the better approach angles, both front and rear, for when the road disappears. The X3 is clearly the SUV for a more active lifestyle or for young families with interior-wrecking balls (children).
The X5 is easily the bigger of the two, and bigger than most other SUVs in its class. It’s huge. It also has a nice long wheelbase for comfy cruising, and a high beltline. The X5 isn’t designed to be a dance partner. With its massive interior space, miles of leather and throne-like seats, the X5 is designed to coddle passengers, not nip apexes. Notice the soft materials throughout the cabin. The X5 wasn’t designed to have strollers and athletic equipments and kids with cleats climbing in and out. No, the X5 is designed for an older, more mature audience. For people who’ve mostly raised their kids and can now drive comfortably, with family in tow, without having to worry about shoes scuffing the front seatbacks.
Not that the X3 isn’t comfortable, because it is. And not that the X5 doesn’t handle well or can’t handle children, because it can do both. In fact, many would prefer the X3 as a cruiser due to its smaller size, making it easier to navigate. And some may fancy the X5 for a young family because of its size, meaning more space and possibly better safety. However, both of these SUVs are considerably different and have their own audiences, making them both necessary to the BMW line. So despite all reasons toward the extinction, both of these SUVs, as well as every other manufacturer’s, will continue to be made. So damn the polar bears, the X3 and X5 live one.