What Car? says...
The BMW X4 M Competition is the sports SUV version of the coupé-inspired X4. Like the boxier and slightly cheaper X3 M Competition it sits at top of its model range and packs more than 500bhp.
So, what do you get on the X4 M Competition that you don't have on the regular BMW X4? Well, it has extra body bracing to help it stay more upright and stable through corners, and bigger brakes designed to cope even with race track use.
A 500bhp SUV might sounds like a pretty odd concept, but it’s far from novel these days. Indeed, the X4 M Competition competes against the similarly powerful Mercedes-AMG GLC 63S Coupé and the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio as well as the Porsche Macan Turbo.
Indeed, BMW reckons the X4 M Competition should feel more like a sporty saloon than a hefty SUV, and to help achieve that it actually borrows its four-wheel drive system from the M5 saloon, with a limited-slip differential that boosts traction on the way out of corners.
Has all this worked, though? Have BMW’s M division engineers managed to avoid the usual sports SUV pitfalls, such as an overly firm ride and unrewarding handling? Over the next few pages, you’ll find the answer to all these questions and more.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
If you’re a self-confessed BMW M car fanatic, you’ll probably know that the 3.0-litre straight-six under this X4’s bonnet is a true M division-fettled engine that shares very little with the 3.0-litre engine in the cheaper X4 M40i. It churns out 503bhp – exactly the same as the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio and Mercedes-AMG GLC 63S coupé .
However, and slightly disappointingly, the X4 M’s engine is the least savage of all these. It doesn’t have the bombastic soundtrack of the GLC, nor does it offer quite the alert accelerator response of the Stelvio. It still makes the X4 M mighty fast, though, pulling from low in the rev range all the way up to its 7200rpm redline, and its six-cylinder howl is anything but unpleasant.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox fitted to the X4 M Competition hesitates very slightly when you go to pull away, but it's still much better than the frustrating Jaguar F-Pace SVR in this respect. Once on the move, it shuffles gears almost imperceptibly when left in its default Efficiency mode.
We actually wish there was more ferocity to the gearshifts in the more aggressive driving modes; this would better suit the engine’s crazy power output. Still, using the launch control function, the X4 M will dismiss the 0-62mph sprint in 4.1sec, a time broadly in line with what the competition can achieve.
As well as adjusting the speed of shifts and the weight of the steering, you can also change the stiffness of the X4 M’s suspension. Unfortunately, even in the most comfortable setting, it fidgets almost continuously over craggy roads and you’re bounced around in your seat over larger intrusions. If you want a sports SUV that keeps one eye on comfort, you’d be better off with a Stelvio Quadrifoglio or Porsche Macan.
The X4 M isn’t the quietest of cruisers, either. Its door mirrors whip up lots of wind noise on the motorway, and the standard-fit 21in wheels kick up quite a racket as their wide tyres pummel the road surface. The Macan is a generally more refined sports SUV.
The M car fanatics we acknowledged earlier may willingly put these flaws aside for the promise of sublime handling, but there’s mixed news on this front, too. Despite BMW’s claims that it should feel just like a performance saloon, the X4 M just can’t conceal its two-tonne weight and higher centre of gravity. Yes, it does resist leaning over well for something this tall, but it never feels as agile as a Stelvio in the bends, or as involving.
Sure, the steering is precise and well weighted (as long as you avoid Sport Plus mode) but you don’t get a huge amount of feedback filtering up to your fingertips. Once settled into a fast corner, though, the X4 M can carry a surprising amount of speed through it thanks to having loads of grip.
The interior layout, fit and finish
With plenty of adjustment to the seat and steering wheel, it’s easy to find a decent driving position in the X4 M Competition. Thanks to heavy bolstering, the seats also do a fine job of holding you in place during spirited cornering, their illuminated M headrest badges being a neat touch.
All-round visibility is good, too, and, just to make your life easier, front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera are included as standard. You also get clever LED headlights, which allow you to drive with your headlights on full beam without dazzling other road users.
Interior build quality is great: with high-quality materials in abundance, the X4 M is light years ahead of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio in this regard. If you want, you can upgrade the slabs of piano black interior trim to real carbonfibre at extra cost.
The controls for most of the main function are within easy reach and a 10.3in touchscreen infotainment system is standard. We rate this system highly for its ease of use; it trumps rival systems by giving you a physical rotary controller interface located between the front seats; using this on the move is far less distracting than stabbing away at the touchscreen.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
There’s loads of space in the front, while rear leg room also impresses. However, the X4 M’s plunging, coupé-style roofline forces six-footers to slouch in the rear seats or sit with their heads brushing up against the rooflining.
At the same time, a narrow central rear seat makes it a squeeze to get three people in the back. And the rear door openings are a little on the small side, so getting in and out could be easier.
On the other hand, the well-shaped boot is big enough to swallow several large suitcases with ease, while the rear seats lie flat when folded down to make it easy to load longer items. The fact that those rear seatbacks split in a 40/20/40 configuration adds to versatility, too.
That said, if you need to put people in the back on a regular basis and carry lots of luggage, we’d look at the boxier X3 M Competition.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
If you’re considering buying an X4 M Competition, or indeed any of its rivals, it’s unlikely that you have inexpensive, economical motoring in mind. Still, the X4 actually costs slightly less than the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63S coupé to buy outright, although the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is cheaper than both.
Even so, a basic X4 M is still around twice the price of a Cupra Ateca. The X4 M’s equipment levels are a match for rivals’, but a quick stroll down the options list can see the price rapidly escalating. Be prepared, too, for fuel economy that hovers around 25mpg – hardly parsimonious but broadly in line with that of direct rivals.
Euro NCAP awarded the X4 five stars for safety, with strong scores for both adult and child occupancy protection. Automatic emergency braking (AEB) is standard, as is traffic sign recognition (this uses a camera to read road signs and display the prevailing speed limit on the dashboard), while lane-keeping assistance is optional.
The X4 comes with a three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty as standard.
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|RRP price range||£94,080 - £103,005|
|Number of trims (see all)||1|
|Number of engines (see all)||1|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||26.4 - 26.4|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£6,794 / £7,454|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£13,587 / £14,908|