Judy Rae

BMW X3 M Competition is a torquey, fun little monster 

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Beach Wheels

By Jeff Mitchell

While there’s little doubt that the BMW X3 M Competition is a full-blooded sport utility vehicle capable of handling most trails and unpaved surfaces out there, its powerful engine makes it just as much of an urban street racer at the same time.

I recently spent a week with an X3 M Competition and became enamored with what is an amazing vehicle capable of thrilling in terms of power and speed while also remaining true to its utility vehicle roots. While my tester offered “throw you back into your seat” acceleration, it was safe enough to haul your kids to school in the morning or maybe pick up your mother-in-law from the airport.

So let’s start with what was beneath the hood of my pearl white tester.

There BMW has installed a twin-turbocharged inline 6-cylinder inter-cooled double-overhead-cam engine that produces a whopping 503 horsepower at 7300 rpm and 442 pound-feet of torque at 2600 rpm. This monster is mated to a precise but smooth-shifting ZF 8-speed automatic transmission.

This amazing engine, which BMW calls the S58, is, in fact, the most powerful production 6-cylinder engine the company has ever made. From a standing start my tester got to 60 mph in under 3.5 seconds. And while I didn’t have the huevos to take it anywhere close, BMW says the X3 M Competition’s top speed is 161 mph. I have no reason to doubt them. I can tell you the gurgles and pops you hear from the vehicle’s exhaust notes are guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

The exterior sheet metal styling of my tester, with that trademark double-kidney grill, straddles the work-a-day world of a commuter with just a little “Go ahead and just try me” swagger. The vehicle is a pleasure to look at.

On the road, my all-wheel-drive X3 M was an authority on curves and just plain fun out on straight stretches of open road.

The vehicle’s suspension, thanks to its stiffer springs, chassis braces and an active damper system, can be dialed in the way you want. That said, the X3 M is German and that means the suspension is going to be tight and it will naturally convey all the pluses and minuses of the road surface you’re driving on. Even in comfort mode on a good road I found the ride a tad too harsh for my liking at times.

Those delightfully diabolical BMW engineers also allow you to adjust the vehicle’s steering, exhaust, shift calibration and speed, torque split, stability control, among other controls.

My tester came sitting on sharp-looking 21-inch steel alloy wheels that were shod with grippy Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires. While the X3 M can definitely go fast it stops competently, too. It needed less than 150 feet to come to a complete stop from 70 mph.

I have to say that my X3 M’s cabin was a monument to Teutonic utility, grace and style. 

The leather air-conditioned seating, which came in competition orange, is comfortable and supportive with 14-way power adjustments. All of the dials and controls are perfectly placed and intuitively designed to help the driver stay in control and to make sure that his or her eyes stay focused on the road.

While my 5-passenger tester was definitely a speedster, it also offered some 39 cubic feet of cargo space. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price of my X3 M Competition, as optioned, was just under $85,000. In case you were wondering, the X3 M Competition competes with the Mercedes-Benz AMG GLC63, the Alpha Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio and the Porsche Macan Turbo.

Final thoughts: You can probably tell by now that I really liked the X3 M Competition. It’s a vehicle that does a number of things really well. While it may not be inexpensive, I think you’ll find it’s worth every penny. As always, I recommend getting out there for a test drive. There’s no substitution for seat time in order to truly understand a vehicle. Oh, and when the kids or your mother-in-law aren’t in the vehicle, you owe it to yourself to mash that throttle down and have some fun.

Jeff Mitchell is a Los Angeles-based automotive writer and reviewer. Reach him at j.edward.mitchell@gmail.com

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