The introduction of any new M car is usually met with a big cheer from car enthusiasts, but the BMW X3 M Competition almost feels like it slipped under the radar. This is the first time the X3 has received the full attention of BMW’s M division, culminating in extra engine cooling to suit track use, bigger brakes and extra body bracing for increased stiffness. But perhaps more tantalising is the X3 M’s bespoke engine. It’s the most powerful straight six yet fitted to a production BMW.
A large SUV packing more than 500bhp sounds pretty bonkers, but it’s far from a novel concept. Indeed, the X3 M Competition competes against the similarly power-crazed Mercedes-AMG GLC 63S and Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, as well as the Porsche Macan Turbo. All of them share similar power outputs and have similar 0-62mph acceleration times, so which one should you pick?
Well, BMW reckons the X3 M Competition should feel more like a sporty saloon than a hefty SUV, thanks in part to its bespoke suspension and steering system setup. An eight-speed automatic gearbox is standard, along with a four-wheel drive system borrowed from the M5 saloon, with a rear limited-slip differential that boosts traction on corner exit.
Has all this worked, though? Has BMW’s M division engineers managed to avoid the usual performance SUV pitfalls, such as an overly firm ride and uninvolving handling? Is the X3 M a better choice than any of the aforementioned rivals? Over the next few pages, you’ll find the answer to all these questions and more.