Tiger Woods, 2012 BMW X3 come to Chicagoland

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A view inside the owners tent at the 2010 BMW Championship at Cog Hill.

The 2010 BMW Championship returns to Chicagoland, and Tiger Woods tries to defend his title. While it's not looking good for Tiger, it's looking great for BMW.

Since BMW is the title sponsor for this event at Cog Hill in Lemont, the automaker always likes to bring a little something special for BMW owners to ooh and aaah over in between following Tiger from tee to tee.

In addition to premiere (and FREE) parking for BMW owners who drive their cars to the event, there is special access to the owners tent with spectacular views of the 12th and 14th tees and greens, private bathrooms and separate concessions.

Oh, and did we mention the sneak peak of the all-new 2012 BMW X3? BMW brought it here first -- even before most media members have had a chance to check it out.

Since the 2012 X3 doesn't officially debut until the Paris Motor Show at the beginning of October, BMW wouldn't even allow us to take pictures of the new SUV in the owners tent. So, all I can show you are the pre-released media photos that everyone has their hands on. Sigh. I guess that will do. For now.

But I can tell you about what I saw and heard.

This second generation of the original cute ute, which first launched in 2003, gets a complete overhaul with a new exterior design and new, more premium interior materials. The X3 gets about 3-1/2 inches longer than the previous generation, and is actually about the size of the first generation X5.

It will be available in two trim levels: the xDrive 28i and the xDrive 35i, which will deliver 240 and 300 horsepower, respectively. And BMW wants to be clear: While this SUV takes on larger proportions, it's still a sport utility vehicle, with an emphasis on performance. In fact, 0-60-mph times will ring in at 6.7 seconds and 5.5 seconds, respectively. Both will come equipped with an 8-speed automatic--no manual option this time around.

Because the buyer mix for the X3 is traditionally 50/50 male/female, BMW didn't want to make the new iteration look too aggressive. So, while the shoulders are a bit wider, the kidney grille stays on the petite side of things. My design faves: the curved hood lines and the swooping horizontal line that moves the length of the X3 and through the door handles.

Inside is night and day from the previous generation. And that's a very good thing. You'll immediately notice better placement for the cup holders (Score one for the Americans) and premium leather stitched dash and door treatments. Other things you'll see when you take a second glance include more functional storage space, extra rear legroom and wider door pockets.

Plus, I'd like to note that the doors have a more solid feel when you shut them. The previous generation sounded kind of hollow and tinny at the close, but the new X3 emits a comforting thwap.

Since the X3 display was static, I can't tell you anything about engine sound, performance or ride comfort, but I can tell you the seats are super comfortable with adjustable lumbar support and a great far forward driver's position for the petite among us. Plus all the gauges and controls appear to be in all the right places.

So, basically, what I'm getting at here is that I can't wait to drive the all-new X3.

Pricing will be announced in October; production begins at the Spartanburg, S.C., plant by the end of the year; and sales will begin in January.

NOTE: The 2010 BMW Championship runs through Sunday, Sept. 12, at Cog Hill in Lemont. Daily Tournament Round Tickets are $45. For more information, visit: www.BMWChampionshipUSA.com

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