by Ian Wright
When performance crossovers first appeared, the idea of them being genuine performance vehicles was greeted with scorn. It still is by many enthusiasts, and the BMW X3 M is treated with suspicion. But these people are wrong. They're operating on the assumption that technology hasn't evolved and mitigated weight and center of gravity issues. Sure, a new M4 will be quicker around a track or down your favorite backroad, but an X3 M will still blow your socks off while also having the ability to pack a week's worth of shopping in the back and run the kids to school in comfort. The physics-defying chassis is propelled by a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged straight-six cylinder engine making 473 horsepower. Upgrading to the Competition package brings output up to 503 hp while using the same superb eight-speed automatic transmission and rear-biased all-wheel-drive system. If that recipe sounds familiar, it's because the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio employs an almost identical strategy, while the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 opts for a V8 instead. The 2021 X3 M was a magnificent piece of kit, but the 2022 model promises updated styling, improved cabin technology, and better performance. And it delivers.
The 2022 BMW X3 M has received a substantial facelift. Outside, it has a larger kidney grille that extends into a redesigned front bumper. Together with vertical side air intakes and reshaped headlights and taillights, it looks even more aggressive than the 2021 model. New colors including Sao Paulo Yellow, Bay Blue metallic, Brooklyn Grey metllaic, and Carbon Black metallic have been added to the palette.
Inside, BMW has redesigned the center console with all-new controls, with some changes borrowed from the M3 and M4. iDrive 7 now offers remote software upgrades so that the X3 M is always equipped with the latest software and features. The standard touchscreen interface is now also larger than before.
There are even more exciting changes beneath the skin. The 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine remains, but it now produces 13 lb-ft more torque for the regular X3 M and 37 lb-ft more for the Competition version. As a result, both models are quicker than before, with the Competition model needing just 3.7 seconds to hit 60 mph.
See trim levels and configurations:
3.0L Twin-Turbo Inline-6 Gas
Today, performance crossovers occupy the space left by hot hatches in the US, and the X3 M doesn't disappoint. Off the line, it's absurdly quick, and when you add some corners to the mix, it becomes wickedly entertaining. Then you remember there's a sport mode, and the X3 M starts to demonstrate how good a 21st-century hot hatch can be with its agility, despite weighing in at just over 4,500 pounds. The brakes will drop like a battleship anchor, helped by the sheer wealth of mechanical grip available, but are also easy to modulate and keep things smooth.
BMW has struggled with numb steering for a while, but the X3 M's steering is communicative and willing to let you know what's going on. More importantly, the same goes for your backside, as the suspension is firm while taking the crunch out of rough surfaces. Some will find the suspension too firm even in its softest setting for everyday driving, but we believe we could live with it in the long term.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
Without a doubt, the X3 M is one of the best, if not the best, performance crossovers around as it packs more power under the hood than a Porsche Macan while costing significantly less. We can argue which is better down a twisty road, but the BMW definitely brings a surprising value proposition to the table. If you're looking for a performance crossover to enjoy the hell out of, we can thoroughly recommend the X3 M. However, we would suggest making sure it passes the partner test by taking them out for a long test drive with the X3 M's firmness of ride in mind.
|BMW X3 M||473 hp||15/20 mpg||$74,400|
|BMW X3||248 hp||23/29 mpg||$46,200|
|Porsche Macan||261 hp||19/25 mpg||$57,500|
One of the X3 M's main competitors is close to home. Like the X3 M, the X3 M40i - which we review as part of the regular X3 lineup - offers turbocharged six-cylinder power and all-wheel drive. However, the M40i is $12,100 cheaper. For that saving, you have to sacrifice 91 horsepower and a 0-60 time that is half a second slower. However, the M40i's 4.4-second effort is still brilliant, and it offers a far superior combined gas mileage figure of 23 mpg. By comparison, that's six miles per gallon more than the X3 M. The M40i misses out on some of the X3 M's standard features like power seat bolsters, the Harman Kardon sound system, and the leather upholstery. However, it isn't as stiffly sprung as the X3 M so is the more approachable SUV for daily use. You'll need a track to fully exploit the X3 M's more focused suspension tuning. The hardcore X3 M is fantastic, but we'll save some money and opt for the better-balanced offering that is the M40i.
For the 2022 model year, Porsche elected to replace the Macan Turbo with the Macan GTS. It's this model that most closely matches up with the BMW X3 M. At $79,900, the GTS is $10,000 pricier yet is down on power at 434 hp. Its 0-60 time of 4.3 seconds also lags behind the base model X3 M's 3.9-second effort - and that's before considering the X3 M's Competition package. Besides this, the X3 M gets more equipment as standard and has a much larger trunk. That's a lot in favor of the Bimmer, but the Macan does claw back points when you drive it. Its PDK gearbox is class-leading, the V6 is powerful, and the suspension tuning is spot-on. The ride isn't as harsh as in the X3 M, yet the Macan is perhaps even more entertaining through the twisties. Because these are performance SUVs, the engaging Porsche Macan GTS is the one that impresses us most.
The most popular competitors of 2022 BMW X3 M: