Review of the BMW X3 M Competition: Performance, Features, and Verdict

The BMW X3 M Competition is a high-performance SUV inspired by the BMW M3 Competition, with a turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six engine producing 503bhp. It competes with powerful rivals like the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio and Mercedes-AMG GLC 63S. Despite its impressive specs, the X3 M is criticized for its firm ride, excessive cabin noise, and lack of nimbleness compared to the Stelvio. Interior features include sports seats, advanced infotainment, and good passenger space. While offering strong performance and luxury, it faces challenges with comfort on British roads, high running costs, and reliability concerns based on past surveys.


What Car? says…

Can a sport utility vehicle ever be considered a true driver’s car? You know, one of those machines that has the magical ability to lure you out of bed on a Sunday morning. Most driving enthusiasts would likely say no. After all, who dreams of wheeling a two-tonne SUV around Silverstone? Not anyone we know.

But what if you based your sporty SUV on a truly exciting performance saloon, like the BMW M3 Competition? This is the route that BMW engineers took when developing the BMW X3 M Competition, and the results look quite promising. Under the metal, you’ll find a fire-breathing turbocharged straight-six engine, a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox, and a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system – all shared with, yes, you guessed it, the M3.

Now, a big SUV with over 500bhp might sound pretty crazy, but it’s far from a new concept. Indeed, the X3 M Competition competes against power-packed rivals like the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63S, and the Porsche Macan GTS.

However, BMW believes the X3 M Competition should feel more like a sports sedan than those rivals, thanks to its bespoke suspension and steering system. With an engine torque boost of 37 lb-ft (up to 479 lb-ft) and a reduced 0-62 mph time to 3.8 seconds, it certainly aims to impress. In addition, it boasts a more angular body kit, BMW’s latest iDrive 7 infotainment system, and enhanced driver assistance tech.

We’ll walk you through these changes, comparing how the X3 M measures up to the best sports SUVs available. And, if you’re considering a sports SUV, be sure to check out our New Car Buying pages to save a buck or two.

Performance and Drive

What it’s like to drive and how quiet it is

Under the hood of the BMW X3 M lies a true M-engine: a 3.0-liter straight-six that produces 503bhp. This power output matches that of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio and the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63S. However, somewhat disappointingly, the X3’s engine is the least wild of these. It doesn’t have the bombastic soundtrack of the GLC nor the brisk throttle response of the Stelvio. Yet, it’s still mighty quick, pulling from low in the rev range up to its 7200rpm redline, and its six-cylinder howl is quite pleasant.

The eight-speed automatic gearbox fits the X3 M Competition, although it hesitates slightly when getting going. Once in motion, it shifts almost imperceptibly in Performance mode. While we wish for more aggressive shifts in its most intense drive mode, the car will sprint from 0-62mph in 3.8 seconds using launch control, aligning with what the competition can achieve.

Driving modes are plenty in the X3 M Competition, controlling engine response, steering weight, and suspension stiffness. Unfortunately, the car remains too firm for British roads. It dips over steep roads and shows more noticeable movement than a regular X3, even in Comfort mode. In urban environments, sharp-edged bumps will jolt you, and the M-spec wing mirrors add considerable wind noise. The Porsche Macan, on the other hand, offers a more refined experience.

Some may overlook these flaws for the promise of sublime handling. Sadly, the X3 M carries mixed reviews on this front. Despite BMW’s claims, it can’t hide its two-tonne weight and higher center of gravity. While it resists leaning quite well, it never feels as nimble as the Stelvio nor as engaging. The steering is precise but lacks communication from the front wheels. Meanwhile, its 4WD system allows some sliding on bends, much like the Stelvio and Macan.


The interior arrangement, fit and finish

Adjusting to the seats and steering wheel in the X3 M Competition is easy. Heavily bolstered seats keep you in place during vigorous cornering, and the illuminated M headrests add a nice touch. All-round visibility is good, with front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera as standard features. Adaptive LED headlights also come standard, preventing glare for other road users.

The interior of the X3 M doesn’t differ much from a standard X3, but that’s not a bad thing. The X3 boasts one of the highest-quality interiors in the large SUV class. In addition to sports seats, the X3 M features seat belts in M-Division colors, a bright red start button, some carbon fiber trim, and a sports steering wheel with contrast stitching.

The X3 M also benefits from BMW’s latest iDrive system, which includes a 12.3in widescreen. This system offers wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, built-in sat-nav, online services, and DAB radio. We appreciate its ease of use, thanks to a physical control dial in the center console, making it more intuitive and less distracting than touchscreen controls. Additionally, it has a natural speech voice control feature that works well most of the time.

Passenger and Boot Space

How it deals with people and disorder

The X3 M Competition provides ample space for front seat passengers. Its high roofline ensures no headroom issues for tall adults, and legroom is generous. While two tall adults can sit comfortably in the back, fitting three is tight, similar to the Stelvio Quadrifoglio and Mercedes-AMG GLC 63S.

Storage is plentiful in the X3 M. The front door bins and glove box are sizable, while lifting the armrest reveals a generous cubby. In the back, you have large door bins, and the middle seatback folds down to double as an armrest with cup holders.

The boot offers identical shape and capacity to other X3 models. It comfortably fits luggage for a family weekend, with hooks and tie-down points to secure belongings during fast cornering or heavy acceleration. Rear seats fold down in a 40/20/40 configuration, allowing a flat cargo floor that’s ideal for larger items, like those from an Ikea run.

Buying and Owning

Daily costs, in addition to how reliable and safe it is

Those interested in the X3 M Competition likely aren’t looking for economy motoring. It costs slightly less than the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63S to buy outright but more than the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. Even so, an X3 M base model is still roughly double the price of a Cupra Ateca.

Equipment levels in the X3 M align with rivals, but options can quickly add costs. Expect fuel economy around 25 mpg, in line with direct competitors. While the X3 M itself wasn’t tested, the regular X3 received five stars in Euro NCAP safety tests, comparable to its rivals.

Automatic emergency braking (AEB) is standard, as is traffic sign recognition. The optional Professional Driving Assistant package adjusts adaptive cruise control based on speed limits and includes lane-keeping assistance with evasive action if needed.

In the 2019 What Car? Reliability Survey, the X3 ranked second from the bottom in its class. BMW finished above Alfa Romeo and Mercedes but below Porsche in overall manufacturer standings. However, a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty is provided.

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BMW X3 M interior showing LHD dashboard

5/5 - (392 bình chọn)
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