Second generation BMW X3 made its official debut last fall at the Paris Motor Show. The redesigned mid-size premium SAV went on sale earlier this year and customers’ response to the new product has been more than favorable. Dealerships around the country are reporting strong sales for the premium SAV and demand remains high.

Prior to its launch, in early 2010, BMW of North America hosted several events at the Spartanburg Delivery Center in South Carolina where BMW client advisors from around the country gathered to not only test the new X3, but also to compare it against its competitors.

The 2011 BMW X3 competes in a segment with the Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLK and even the Lexus RX. With the first generation running its lifecycle in 2010, the mid-size premium SUV segment was dominated by the Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLK.

In a recent conversation with a BMW official, we learned that BMW sees the GLK as stronger opponent than Audi’s Q5. The GLK with its boxy look, but attractive dimensions, has been a major seller for Mercedes-Benz USA with number of units sold nearing 2,000 every month.

But now that the second-generation $36,750 2011 BMW X3 has arrived, GLK350 4Matics and Audi Q5s have lost some of their sheen. X3 sales jumped from the first-generation’s 351 in February 2010 to 1987 a year later. That’s 12.1% of all BMW USA sales in February, another sign that the new X3 will play a major role for BMWUSA in the upcoming years.

In February 2011, BMW sold 1,987 units of the new X3, Mercedes reported 1,853 GLK vehicles sold and Audi’s Q5 comes third with 1,539 units. Lexus RX, considered by many a competitor to the larger X5 and Q7, had a volume of 6567 units sold in the same month.

While first comprehensive comparison reviews are yet to come out (BMWBLOG will have one as well), we would like to share some ad-hoc photos of all these vehicles sitting side-by-side at the Performance Center in Spartanburg. Photos are courtesy of our friend and spy photographer Palbay.