Despite the ongoing rapid shift towards electrification in the auto industry, luxury carmakers such as BMW want you to know they are ready to serve your high-performance needs, too. And, for now at least, the offering includes lots of internal combustion engine vehicles.
BMW Canada’s website, for instance, lists 17 high ultra-performance M / M-adjacent models, including six that are SUVs, or SAVs (sports activity vehicles), as BMW calls them.
One of these is the X3 M Competition, a compact SAV that comes loaded for bear with a 500 hp+ engine, 21-inch wheels and advanced chassis tuning that’s well-suited for closed course driving.
For 2022, BMW is throwing a fair bit of change at the third gen X3 / X4 line, including the X3 M and X4 M variants. The big above-the-fold news is the 3.0-litre twin-turbo inline six-cylinder engine powering both M variants has been given a 37 lb-ft. torque bump to 479, which shaves an extra 0.3 seconds off its zero-100 km/h time which is now 3.8 seconds. Peak horsepower rests at 503, with a standard eight-speed automatic transmission and xDrive all-wheel drive rounding out the powertrain.
Other changes include exterior styling updates, such as a larger kidney grille, and redesigned adaptive LED headlights. The ’22 also has new vertical side air intakes, and a restyled M-specific front apron. At the rear, the LED taillights receive a new, narrower graphic with a black surround, a new M-specific apron, and redesigned black chrome quad-tip exhaust finishers.
Updates for the cabin include sport seats with electrically powered headrests and an illuminated M logo, new upholstery options (Merino leather) and colours, redesigned air vents, and trim panels finished in standard dark Rhombicle aluminum.
BMW has also freshened the digital screens and introduced new tech to run them. The 12.3-inch instrument cluster now comes standard with BMW Live Cockpit Professional, which includes Connected Drive that delivers a fully configurable, digital display. A slew of connected car tech, including BMW Personal Assistant, Connected Music and Remote Software Upgrade, are also standard fare.
Regarding the 12.3-inch multimedia display, it is now a touchscreen, but users can also opt for old reliable, the BMW Controller knob, if they wish. A Harman Kardon premium audio system also comes standard.
As for the Urban Green test vehicle BMW Canada set me up with, it is equipped with several options, including two multi-faceted packages.
The Premium Package ($4,500) comes with a head-up display, parking assistant plus including surround view, ventilated front seats, BMW drive recorder, heated rear seats and side sunshades.
The Advanced Driver Assistance Package ($2,000) delivers traffic jam assistant, driving assistant professional, steering and lane control, evasion assist, cross-traffic alert (front), active cruise control with stop and go, lane change assistant and lane keep assistant.
Stand-alone options include Urban Green exterior finish ($3,900) from BMW’s Individual Paint offerings, M compound brakes ($750), Shadowline headlights ($500), carbon fibre trim ($850), and Black / Midrand Beige two-tone Merino leather upholstery ($500).
I won’t dwell too much on the X3 M Competition’s aesthetic because the pictures really tell the story here. It’s an aggressive, high-performance utility and that’s what it looks like. Big wheels, lots of black trim accents, quad-tip exhaust, you get the idea.
I quite like the look of it, sharply creased and aggressive – ready to go for a rip at a moment’s notice. And despite its rather large price tag, the Urban Green finish received plenty of favourable notices from various passersby during my week of driving.
The cabin also gets high marks from yours truly. Cars of this variety are inherently designed to appeal to one’s emotions, so their interiors should stir the passions of its occupants, especially the driver. On that score, I’d say the X3 M Competition has achieved that goal.
Its interior is a pleasing mix of piano blacks, metallic and carbon fibre accents and soft touch fabrics, and rich Merino leather. More importantly, in my view, the space isn’t drowning in black. There’s colour, and interesting shapes to break up the large areas of black trim, not to mention configurable ambient lighting. Overall, BMW has created a space that is sporting and premium, comfortable and spacious for driver and passengers alike.
On the road, the X3 M Competition delivers on its high-performance promise. It is blindingly fast for an SUV (or any car, really), regardless of drive mode, and its twin-turbo inline-six emits a wonderful bark at start-up and under acceleration. Some drive modes dull its growl somewhat, but its sonorous sound is ever present.
There was no track testing (sadly), but even on public roads, I could detect the car’s adaptive M suspension doing its work to keep the X3 M Competition stuck to the road with its continuously adaptive damping that can be dialled firmer or softer to suit the driver’s preference. Despite its bulk (4,610-pound / 2,091 kg curb weight), the car feels light on its feet with responsive steering and a minimal amount of body lean.
It should also be noted that the xDrive AWD system and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) combine to send engine torque variably to the front and rear wheels, which can give the X3 M Competition more of a RWD feel, leaving room at the table for some rear-wheel spin. And yes, torque split is driver adjustable.
Again, this tech is best experienced on a racetrack, but it can still make a daily commute feel more dynamic. And who wouldn’t want that?
2022 BMW X3 M Competition
compact high-performance SUV
Front-engine, all-wheel-drive, eight-speed automatic transmission
3.0-litre twin-turbocharged inline six-cylinder (503 hp / 479 lb-ft)
(Premium 91+) 15.7 / 11.7 / 13.9 L / 100 km city / highway / combined
1,775 / 813 litres (62.7 / 28.7 cu-ft) (behind first / second row)
$93,700 base / $106,700, as tested, excluding freight and taxes
The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.