BMW’s record-breaking twins are unique in their own way
It’s taken three generations of the BMW X3 for that wagon to finally gain the kudos of a real M version. And now that it’s it come; it must share that glory with its fastback X4 M sibling.
So, when our wonderful BMW test car smous asked whether we’d like the X3 M or X4 M to try, I never even thought about it when I said both. She giggled. And soon enough there they both were in the driveway – resplendent in the same silver and orange hues that Munich had used to launch them.
Powered by M's newly developed high-revving biturbo 3-litre straight six churning out 375kW and 600Nm in stock spec, these Competition versions deliver what what we used to call 500 horsepower back in the day.
Five hundred horses
Fifteen years ago, it was unheard of to have that much power in a road car. Some of you will remember how we carried on about our 500 horse 500Nm 5-litre V10 M5 back then. Now BMW’s midrange jeep has that much power on tap, not to mention that the mud plugger has an extra hundred Newtons to boot and it will destroy that V10 M5 in a drag race.
BMW suggests that power will propel these Competition packed variants to 100km/h from rest in just 4.1 seconds. Now hold that thought for a minute…
These cars are both infinitely adjustable and set-uppable to drive an indecisive old Libran like me crazy. They have it all from M xDrive modes to myriad choices of engine and transmission, steering and damper modes, all of which you can pick by fingering a dizzying array of buttons or a whole lot of other means that will thrill the more tech savvy.
The DSC, for instance, allows controlled wheel slip in M Dynamic Mode or it can be switched off completely, while the Heads-Up Display can be specified via the iDrive menu and …and, and, and…
Happily, the you can also store two of your favourite set-up options in the iDrive menu and select them via the red two steering wheel M buttons. But be sure to get those set-ups right as with them you can achieve whatever you want, and correctly sorted, both these cars proved astoundingly fast.
With all the above sorted and finally able to double-click that M2 knob and achieve said nirvana, we strapped our VBox to the X4 M first and headed to the test strip. It immediately delivered the claimed 4.1 seconds, but somehow, I felt it wanted to give a lot more. I found a few hundredths trying this and that to improve the small human effort it requires to launch these things like a rocket over a series of runs, but returned to base a little frustrated.
We discussed it at length, and someone mentioned that they had seen a simple launch trick on these cars mentioned somewhere deep in the web. So, when I ventured back to the strip with the X4M, I tried that insanely arbitrary move and immediately the car felt very different.
There seemed many more loose articles all of a sudden rolling aft as the car took off with noticeably far more force and vigour and it felt much faster. The result? Check the data below. Yes, that’s right!
Armed with a modicum of hindsight, I swapped cars again and headed back out there with the fastback, to which I applied my newfound launch knowledge. Again – take a look at the data below – by using a slightly different driving technique I found half a second to 100 to smash the Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S’ 3.96-second Auto SUV road test record and deliver a surprising and very well learned lesson!
Beyond the drag strip and once again set up correctly, both the BMW X3 and X4 M are quite astounding to drive.
Boasting BMW M’s new rear-biased xDrive all-wheel-drive with an Active M rear Differential for 'sublime dynamics,’ these cars deliver and then some – so much so that you tend to forget they’re supposed to be SUVs. Or SAVs as the propeller heads call them.
Add sophisticated chassis tech via the M-specific suspension’s electronically controlled dampers, double-joint spring strut front and five-link rear axles; M-specific steering with Servotronic and variable ratio, powerful M compound brakes and 21-inch M light-alloys and you are in driving paradise.
Not sure how much 4x4ing those slithers of inflated rubber will allow and its quite robust over rougher surfaces even in comfort mode, but for the devil in you, these two kinda bring it out better than most – and to the backdrop of a superb crackling and burping straight-six rhapsody too.
Both are also impressive on fuel when not pushed – but that’s far easier said than done. Not pushing these cars, I mean. Still, the claimed 10.5 litres per 100km seems fair enough and BMW promises that they emit 239 g/km CO2 according to those new, more truthful fuel tests too.
Looking beyond just driving, although you may not think so, these two are identical all the way from their all-black kidneyed noses and splendid and most effective LED headlight eyes (the wing mirrors, M gills and rear spoiler are also all-black, by the way, and both cars pack an über-cool M Carbon exterior package) all the way through, to the B-pillar – otherwise known as the front door jambs. From there however, it’s all change.
X3 M retains its old farm station wagon poise and a boot to more comfortably pack in the horse… ah OK, OK -- your great dane will be happy. X4 M is completely different. It’s a fastback, for want of a better word and has a far tauter and sleeker rear end complete with sharper, narrower taillights than those more elaborate ones on the three.
Bang on head
Take note that the X4 M also has a far lower door opening that caught one of our rear passengers squarely on the side of head as she tried to climb in the back, while the boot is not that good for a great dane. Better you get a sausage dog for that one.
All that said, the X3 M has more than ample access and headroom in the rear, so if you carry adults more than kids in the back, that could be a consideration. Their boots are well equipped though and the beauty of it is you can have it either way.
For the rest, they are also identical inside – Merino leather power sport seats appropriately trimmed to match the mood of the wagon and the fastback, populate an M-specific cockpit alongside an M leather multifunction steering wheel and gear knob. Its typically BMW angular and all quite perfectly executed in there too.
We won’t waste too much time on the infotainment and all, bar to say that they have it all from a hi-fi speaker system to the ConnectedDrive Navigation System Professional. Both also boast all of BMW’s cutting-edge driver assistance systems, which are easy enough to cut off, if like us, some of them become too intrusive the moment you pull away.
Like all these high spec cars, these require a second brain to run it all properly if you want to drive it and control all its faculties at the same time. Or train your passenger well.
All that said, it was a unique privilege to spend a few days flitting between these quite astounding twins. They are different enough to be unique in their own special ways and both the BMW X3 M Competition and the even swifter BMW X4 M Competition left having comprehensively destroyed our quite insignificant all-time SUV road test records.
I’ll leave it to you to decide if that’s insignificant or not… - Michele Lupini
ROAD TESTED: BMW X3 M Competition & X4 M Competition
Engine: 375kW 600Nm 3-litre biturbo petrol I6
Drive: 8-speed automatic AWD
TESTED: X3 M Competition X4 M Competition
0-60km/h: 1.86 sec 1.77 sec
0-100km/h: 3.73 sec 3.66 sec
0-160km/h: 8.43 sec 8.03 sec
400m: 11.8 sec @ 189km/h 11.66 sec @ 193km/h
80-120km/h: 2.41 sec 2.29 sec
120-160km/h: 3.34 sec 3.13 sec
Fuel: 10.5 l/100km
CO2: 239 g/km
Warranty/Service: 5y 100K/2y unl
LIST PRICE: R1.64M R 1.74M
RATED: 9 9