Okay, since the 1990s, SUVs are the most popular type of vehicle people prefer. They are selling like hotcakes. They offer practicality, comfort and all-wheel drive option altogether in one package. Practicality and comfort don’t sound that exciting, this is why there are many people who hate SUVs as they claim it makes their soul die when they drive it.
However, not all SUVs are the same. Premium brands such as BMW offer SUVs with some soul in it. This week’s tester is the X3M with Competition Package. It is a utilitarian vehicle with an animal under the hood. The question is, does it deserve the “M” and “Competition” badge? In this article, we will try to find it out.
Engine and Drivetrain
As always, we should start with the heart of a car with the “M” badge. It comes with a 3.0 Liter, 6-cylinder turbocharged engine which pumps out 503 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque. Like many other BMWs, this has 8-speed torque converter automatic transmission. It only comes with all-wheel drive, and it is able to get to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds, despite being heavier than 5500 pounds. These numbers are extremely impressive for a utility vehicle. However, if you don’t need all 503 horsepower to go to grocery shopping, you can opt-out the Competition package which comes with 473 horsepower with an only 0.1-second penalty for 0-60 mph. In our test, we couldn’t care less about fuel consumption as potential buyers also should not care about it, but we can definitely say it is over 15.0L / 100 km/h if you drive spiritedly.
Exterior and Interior
Are you a car guy, or average Joe? You will immediately identify the X3M if you are a car guy, as it comes with bigger wheels, sporty front bumper, unique black grille, grille in the front fenders, M side mirrors, unique rear spoiler, and different M specific rear bumper. Not only that, but it comes with M calipers which are significantly better and painted from the factory. Sorry, but it still looks like a regular X3 if you are an average Joe.
When you get inside the X3M-C, you feel high-quality materials and great craftsmanship, like a BMW tradition. Lots of soft-touch plastics, leather, aluminum and carbon trims placed all around the interior. Though it is heavily relied on infotainment system to use many of its features, there are still actual buttons that you can use for adjusting the air conditioning, radio, cruise control, suspension setup and so on. The combination of technology while keeping actual buttons for essential features mean you are not screwed if the technology fails in the future, so the X3M will still be drivable.
Interior wise, X3M-C differs itself from a regular X3 by few important changes. Different trims such as carbon fiber, M specific two-colored sporty seats, M buttons in the steering wheel, few “M” badges in the interior and that’s it.
Should I give you a spoiler? This feels like a sports car in every circumstance. You should not expect a super comfortable ride, however, the struts are super-complaint that it is not overly stiff, but there is no body roll at all. The steering feels like M3, chassis feels like M3, engine, and transmission are a beast to drive. However, the difference is, when you turn your head back, you have tons of legroom and cargo room. It is quite impressive BMW was able to offer M3 driving dynamics in an SUV. Of course, if you go to the track and compete with any M car, it would fall behind, but who buys an SUV for the track? This is an excellent car for public roads and overpowered for our highways, which are unfortunately limited at 100 km/h.
Let’s go back to the engine and transmission for a second. This 6-cylinder S58 engine has tons of torque in the whole rpm range. It is a rev-happy engine that goes all the way up to 7600 rpm and it shifts really quickly. Maybe not as fast as M3 or M4, but quick enough for an SUV. Regardless of which gear you are in, the car just wants to move without downshifting which makes it extremely easy to drive on the highway, back roads or city roads.
We think the all-wheel-drive system deserves a few words. Like most of the BMWs, this has rear-wheel drive biased AWD system. In our tests, there was a snowstorm in Ontario so we had a chance to see its limits and how capable it is. If you disable the traction and stability control, which is extremely easy to do unlike the other German vehicles, some even won’t allow you to fully disable, the X3M-C can easily go sideways and it is a joy to drive in every type of road surface. X3M-C offers two types of different AWD tune, which is Normal and Sport mode. In Sport mode, it can transfer up to 100% of the power to the rear whereas, in Normal mode, the car will send more power to the front. Either way, you feel that it always sends power to the rear first and then the front.
Pricing and Features
Fast & Good & Cheap – You need to pick two of them. This rule is also applicable to BMW X3M Competition. Like the other BMW’s, you need to take the “Cheap” part out of the equation. For X3M-C, the word “cheap” is replaced with “Practical”. Normal X3M starts from $86,454.73 and if you choose the Competition pack, it starts at $96,764.73 as of February 2020. If you choose the Ultimate Package, which comes with M Carbon Exterior Package, Front & Rear Heated and Ventilated seats, M Driver’s Package, Wi-Fi Hotspot, Wireless Charging, Driving Assistant Plus, Parking Assistant Plus with Surround View, Manual Rear Side Sunshades that costs $10,000 extra and there are few more extras. So, we are looking at more than $110,000 before tax, PDI and delivery. Yes, that’s the premium if you want the “Fast, Good and Practical”.
Things could have been better:
Price – Our tester’s price is over $110.000 CAD. You should not expect a great deal if we are talking about an SUV, especially the one which is extremely capable of doing everything great. This “Fast SUV” is a niche segment and you have to pay the premium to play. If you opt-out for Competition package, which we doubt that most people need it, you can save a lot of money. However, at the end of the day, you are still paying a lot of money for an X3.
Adaptive Cruise Control – This was not as good as the latest generation 3 series. It always asks you to keep your hands on the steering wheel, unlike our M340i tester from last year. Though it stops and starts moving pretty smoothly, still we would expect the latest technology in the $100.000+ vehicle.
Exhaust system – We wouldn’t complain if this was not a Competition version. However, we were expecting a louder exhaust in our tester. This is perfectly fine for regular X3M, but it just needs to get louder for X3M-C.
Shifter paddles – Okay, for a true “M” and “Competition” car, it must not be plastic. Although it feels high quality, it must be metal, like the one in M3-M4 or any other M cars. You can always change with aftermarket ones, but why bother since you pay over $100.000 for a sporty SUV?