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BMW invites users to take new X3 for a virtual spin on Mars

Sven Gustafson

BMW's marketing brass, which has apparently moved on from drinking the proverbial Kool-Aid to quaffing Red Bull, is trying to build excitement for the November release of its all-new X3 by launching a global campaign that pairs the redesigned SUV with extreme athletes, a new limited-edition branded mountain bike — and the topper, a 360-degree virtual reality drive on the surface of the Red Planet.

The German automaker dubs the multimedia campaign "On a Mission" and says it's meant to celebrate discovery and pursuing your passions. It'll use Facebook and the brand's other social media channels, a TV spot, plus the virtual reality feature, available through YouTube (we've embedded the video below) and best experienced with VR glasses.

"Using virtual reality, the BMW X3 takes customers and fans on the world's first test drive through the breath-taking scenery of Mars — quite literally pushing the boundaries," the company says. "Spectacular images and evocative sounds transform the trip to Mars into an immersive experience. During a virtual reality drive across the atmospheric and ever-changing surface of the planet — reminiscent of a Hollywood film — different features of the BMW X3 are presented as part of the "BMW Personal Co-Pilot."

It's a promotion that might have been better suited for an electric car (such as the Mars rovers), since an internal combustion engine won't work in Mars' thin atmosphere. But let's suspend disbelief and enjoy the VR ride.

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Also, a TV spot features extreme athletes surfing the Arctic, mountain-biking across rocky ridges and camping on steep rock walls. BMW says it'll also use the campaign to present a limited special edition of the BMW Turbo Levo FSR 6Fattie, a collaboration with bike maker Specialized. A separate Facebook Canvas ad will offer an interactive vehicle visualizer that will allow users to create their own custom X3 followed by an invitation to test-drive one.



Built in Spartanburg, S.C., the U.S. will get two BMW X3 models at launch: the X3 xDrive30i, which gets a 248-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four, and the X3 M40i, with a 355-horse turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six. You can read all about the SUV's other specs here.

So welcome to the future of brand marketing. Hope you enjoy driving on Mars and aren't put off by the idea of errant SUVs or traffic jams there.

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