2020 BMW X3 M and X4 M Competition: 503 Hp FTW!

Strong points
  • Powerful engine
  • Superior dynamics
  • High-quality fit and finish
  • Strong brakes
Weak points
  • Big price tag
  • Expensive options
  • X4 M less practical than X3 M
  • Poor rearward visibility (X4 M)
Full report

The SUV craze, combined with the sales success of BMW’s M vehicles including the X3 M40i and X4 M40i, drove the performance division of the Bavarian automaker to launch the first-ever X3 M and X4 M. These models are powered by a new turbocharged 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder engine that cranks out as much as 503 horsepower in Competition trim. For real.

According to Dirk Häcker, head of development at BMW M, the idea was to create the X equivalent of an M3. He wouldn’t say it, but we bet the arrival of the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S also had something to do with it. The long-time German rivals never miss an opportunity to attack each other directly, even in niche segments.

Our first contact with these juiced-up SUVs took place not only on the roads of New York State and New Jersey, but also on the fabulous private track of the Monticello Motor Club, where we were able to push the X4 M Competition to the limit in a controlled environment.

Brand New Engine

Before going any further, it’s worth noting that the engine in the 2020 BMW X3 M and X4 M is 90-percent new. Codenamed S58, it relies on BMW’s signature inline six-cylinder configuration and features twin turbochargers. There are key differences, however, including a bigger bore, shorter stroke and forged crankshaft.

Photo: Uwe Fischer

It appears this new engine will find its way into other BMW models in the future. Why not the next M3? The company is staying mum for now, but you can definitely count on it. After all, engineers claim they can extract more power and torque from the S58 mill.

The X3 M and X4 M also use an M-calibrated all-wheel drive system and electronically controlled suspension with three driver-selectable modes. If you want to have fun on the track, just press the M2 button on the right steering wheel spoke and the vehicle suddenly develops sharper reflexes.

On this highly technical, 5.8-kilometre long track, which features numerous elevation changes, decreasing-radius turns, a fantastic chicane and long straightaways, the X4 M Competition felt right at home, delivering impressive performance for an SUV. The ceramic-composite brakes are remarkably strong, handling is superb when changing directions and the vehicle re-accelerates in convincing fashion. In M Dynamic mode, you’ll even experience a slight drift as you exit a turn.

Body movements are effectively neutralized, even when the inside front wheel goes up and over the curbs in a chicane. The sound of the engine at full throttle is pretty sweet to listen to, although it remains a bit muted like typical turbos. With 503 horsepower on tap and a 7,200 rpm redline, it’s BMW’s mightiest six-cylinder engine.

Photo: Uwe Fischer

Dressed to Kill

The 2020 BMW X3 M and X4 M are aggressively styled to match their outstanding performance. Each one sports 21-inch wheels, imposing fascias and a great-looking body kit, while a gloss black finish adorns the grille, mirror caps and rear diffuser.

Under the distinctive sheetmetal are extra chassis reinforcements including a front strut tower brace just above the engine. Inside the cockpit, you’ll find two-tone leather seats with Alcantara inserts, an M sport steering wheel (with M1 and M2 red buttons specifically designed to unleash the beast) and a few other unique design cues highlighting the special nature of these SUVs.

On the road, the BMW X3 M and X4 M Competition can be docile and fairly comfortable—that is, when the pavement is in pristine condition. The time spent on highways also made us realize how bad rearward visibility is in the X4 M due to the coupe-like roofline and narrow rear window. Because the two models are identical from a technical standpoint, I would pick the much roomier and more accommodating X3 M any day. Plus, it costs a bit less money.

Speaking of which, sales will begin in July with prices starting at $82,700 (freight and delivery charges not included) for the 2020 BMW X3 M and $84,300 for the 2020 BMW X4 M. In both cases, the Competition package requires a premium of $10,300.

Share on Facebook

More on the subject

New Models2020 BMW X3 M and X4 M: 503 Horsepower!
We were waiting for these two models for quite a while now, and they’ve finally been unveiled. The 2020 BMW X3 M and X4 M will join the brand’s growing range of SUVs this summer, set to rival the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S 4MATIC+ and the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio …
News2020 BMW M3 and M4 are Going to be (Manually) Awesome
Ever since we drove the redesigned 2019 BMW 3 Series in Portugal at the end of last year, we can’t stop thinking about the next-generation BMW M3 and M4. And if you’re a fan of the German automaker’s high-performance compact sedan and coupe, you’re probably wondering the same things as …
Test Drives2020 BMW X1 xDrive28i: Looking Good with Racier Styling
The BMW X1 is the German brand’s best-selling SUV globally. In Canada, where utility vehicles are on the rise, it ranks third behind the larger X3 and X5 , in that order. Sharing its platform with the MINI Clubman and Countryman , the second-generation X1 gets an update for the …
First Drives2020 BMW X5 M and X6 M: Sweet Monsters
PHOENIX, Arizona—The 2020 BMW X5 M ’s specs are just as intimidating as its flared fenders, massive bumpers and oversized wheels. Simply put, this high-performance midsize SUV is a monster. Under the hood is a twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 engine that produces 600 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque. We tested …
ElectricElectric BMW iX3 Unveiled in China, Not for Canada
The all-new BMW iX3, a fully electric variant of the X3 compact SUV that initially appeared as a concept at the 2018 Beijing Auto Show, finally made its global debut in production form this week. However, as we learned in early spring, this Chinese-built vehicle is not part of BMW’s …
Test Drives2021 BMW X4 M Competition: Those Crazy Germans
Very few people need or can afford a vehicle like the 2021 BMW X4 M Competition , a luxurious, coupe-style compact SUV that packs 503 horsepower and has all the dynamic attributes to keep pace with a number of high-caliber sports cars on a track. There’s nothing rational—or so it …
NewsRefreshed 2022 BMW X3, X4 Add Style, Torque, 48V Mild Hybrid Tech
The BMW X3 and X4 have now reached the midpoint of their current generation, so the automaker has made a number of revisions and changes for 2022. Of course, the high-performance M and M Competition models are in on the action, too. First, if you look on the outside, you’ll …