by Sebastian Cenizo
If you have not accepted the lord and savior of the automotive industry, the SUV, into your heart and soul, then the heathen that is the sports activity coupe might be even more offensive to your purist mindset. However, these cars are the bread and butter of the auto industry nowadays, and BMW is demonstrating that by previewing the next-generation M3/M4 powerplant in the M versions of the X3 and X4. Codenamed S58, the 3.0-liter twin-turbo engine produces 473 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque in the X4, with the Competition model upping the horsepower figure to 503. A rear-biased xDrive all-wheel-drive system and an eight-speed automatic gearbox are what people want in their fast SAV, and that's all they can have. With a maximum available top speed in excess of 170 mph, the X4 M and X4 M Competition take the fight to the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 in a manner that is intended to mimic a raised M4's performance. However, compromises must be made, and this isn't a one-size-fits-all kind of vehicle, with rear space impacted considerably and a beefy suspension setup affecting comfort.
The X4 M is a completely new product offering from BMW, with a number of changes over the regular X4 to increase its ability as a performance machine. The usual array of M division interior and exterior accouterments and styling upgrades is also present, with M-specific changes all over the vehicle. The engine upgrade is the most obvious change, but new strut braces, firmer suspension, an adaptive exhaust, and more, increase the vehicle's rigidity and performance too. The cooling systems and oil feed have also been upgraded, with the latter allowing for a continuous supply of oil even under harsh lateral G-forces. Also new is the availability of an alluring paint shade called Toronto Red.
The X4, being a coupe-like SAV, has a sloping roofline and a fairly lofty ride height. The X4 M is naturally a sportier version with more aggression, thanks in part to 20-inch wheels as standard with 21s on the Competition. A more aerodynamic body kit with larger front grilles, a roof and a trunk spoiler, plus a faux diffuser at the rear and fake vents on the wings, help set the M car apart, with the traditional quad-exit exhaust also making an appearance. Competition models upgrade many of the accents to gloss black, with carbon fiber-reinforced plastic exterior accents promised to come as part of an optional appearance package. The headlights and taillights are LED units as standard.
Both versions of the X4 M are 187.5 inches long, 75.9 inches wide, and have a wheelbase of 112.8 inches. Their curb weights are also the same, tipping the scales at 4,590 lbs. Due to the bigger 21-inch wheels in the Competition variant, height is the only measurement that differs slightly between the two X4 M models, with the regular model measuring 63.7 inches high and the Competition version measuring 63.8. Nevertheless, ground clearance remains the same at 8.1 inches.
As is typical for most BMW models, Alpine White is your only no-cost option, with various metallic options available. $550 buys you either Black Sapphire, Dark Graphite, Phytonic Blue, Donington Grey, or the brand new and quite lovely Toronto Red. Sunstone Metallic is also available but costs $1,950. Both the regular X4 M and X4 M Competition have access to the same colors, but the Competition's gloss black kidneys, fender vents, and hatch spoiler help set it apart.
One might be forgiven for thinking that the X4 M and its X3 sibling are released with the S58 engine as test mules before the engine is fitted to the new G-series M3 and M4 models, but based on the performance of this vehicle, there aren't any kinks to iron out in the engine bay. The S58 is a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged straight-six that produces 442 lb-ft of torque on the X4 M and X4 M Competition. In the lesser model, horsepower is rated at 473, while the Competition model is further boosted to 503 hp. These days, we've become callous to massive power figures, and anything with less than 700 hp barely raises an eyebrow. But stop for a second and think about it: up to 503 hp in a tall "activity" vehicle - that's ludicrous. To keep everything pointed in relatively the right direction, the X4 M's variants are fitted with a rear-biased M xDrive all-wheel-drive system that is largely borrowed from the F90 M5. However, unlike in that monster, you can't switch from AWD to RWD exclusively. You can coax the X4 M into drifts, though, and the system is always programmed to send power to the rear only until the back end reaches the limits of its grip. This helps the X4 M and X4 M Competition get from 0-60 mph in 4.1 and 4.0 seconds respectively. Both models are limited to a top speed of 155 mph, but spec the M Driver's Package on either variant, and they'll shift each the limiter to 173/177 mph.
If the X4 M's breadth of torque and usability is anything to go by, the next M3 and M4 won't disappoint at all. The base X4 M's peak of 473 hp from the 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder reaches its plateau at 5,600 rpm with the redline arriving around 7,300. The real cherry is the torque of 442 lb-ft, which peaks from as low as 2,600 rpm. This allows for astonishing acceleration and, thanks to a forged crankshaft, you can rev it out hard without fear of hurting the straight-six. Despite its twin-turbo setup, the 3.0-liter engine does hint at some turbo lag below 3,000 rpm, but in comfort mode, you'll likely not even notice. If there's any fault with the engine, it's this. Other than that, the eight-speed auto covers up any imperfections and makes for a fine companion with smooth and sharp shifts that can be customized and saved. Access to these customized modes is made easy through the steering-mounted M1 and M2 buttons. If left to its own devices in comfort, the gearbox is still very good and will kick down quickly and cleanly when you need to assert your dominance over some kid in his Subaru. The X4 M Competition's higher power output of 503 hp is the one you want for ultimate bragging rights, though, offering just as much usability and ease of access, but also better acceleration and higher top speed.
The aforementioned driving modes don't just apply to fine-tuning of the gearbox, steering, and throttle responses. You can also set the level of comfort thanks to adaptive dampers as standard. However, you'll likely leave it in Comfort mode most of the time, as the Sport and Sport+ modes have been noted to be exceptionally firm. Granted, that's what you need to make an SAV perform drifts and handle well, but most owners will never even smell burning rubber or look out their side windows while hanging the tail out. The benefits of the Active M differential, M xDrive AWD system, and firm suspension are that you can do both long skids and twisty, technical turns that most tall vehicles would simply tip over attempting. Unlike M Performance models, when BMW puts just the most powerful letter in the world on the rear of one of their cars, it means business. The M team has worked hard to create an experience that is intended to feel like you're driving a lifted M4 rather than a hotted-up X4. A number of strut braces link the front shock towers and strengthen the front end's rigidity while the rear also gets a brace and special rear axle control arms. All this translates into a dynamic package that is much more chuckable than what you'll find in the bloated X5 M and X6 M. Thanks to its relatively light weight, its drilled 15.6-inch front and 14.6-inch rear brake discs, and sticky summer tires, stopping is also phenomenal. However, the steering in the sportier drive modes can feel overly assisted at times, although direct.
The X4 M and X4 M Competition share the same official EPA estimates, despite a 30 hp difference in power. Their engines return 14/19/16 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles, and with a gas tank of 17.2 gallons, you can expect an average of around 275 miles. By contrast, the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 has a 17.4-gallon tank and scores much better in EPA tests, with 16/22/18 mpg, thus returning around 313 miles with mixed driving - this despite the Merc using a 4.0-liter turbocharged V8.
Despite the sporty ambitions that it does a good job of living up to, the X4 M is still endowed with a richly appointed interior. Granted, it is sporty, with an M steering wheel, an optional head-up display, and a bright red engine start button, as well as the option of body-hugging sports seats that grip you more than the standard chairs, but the finishings and design are still imbued with luxury and style. Vernasca leather and your choice of carbon fiber, aluminum, or wood create a classy ambiance, while heated seats and dual-zone climate control keep things temperate. Ventilated seats up front and heated seats at the back are available, and while the front is a great place to be with comfort, support, and plenty of space, the rear is cramped and uncomfortable. The infotainment system balances the negatives somewhat, being as easy to use and as elegant as ever.
The five-seater X4 M's interior is a well-crafted and beautiful place to be if you're seated in the front half of the cabin. 14-way power-adjustable heated seats with lumbar support allow for expansive adjustment. Finding the right driving position is great, and forward visibility is good. However, looking out the back is a bit compromised by the sloping roofline, and if you're sitting in the back, that roofline will bug you quite a lot. Headroom and legroom are minimal, and although you can fit someone of Tom Cruise's stature in the back, getting a six-footer to keep silent about their bent neck and cramped legs is mission impossible. At least heating in the back is available. Ingress and egress are similarly bipolar, with the front being easy to get in and out of and the rear requiring some ducking and bending.
Vernasca leather is your standard upholstery option for the seats, while the dash is trimmed in SensaTec leatherette. Black or Oyster are the no-cost options, while Merino leather is available in your choice of Sakhir Orange/Black, Adelaide Grey/Black, full black, Ivory White or Tartufo, each of which costs $1,000. The usual M badges are accompanied by tri-color stitching on the steering wheel, while dash and door trims can be had in either carbon fiber, aluminum carbon, or your choice of Grey Poplar or Fineline Cove wood finishings. The X4 M Competition offers only Merino leather in the same colors as on the base model at no charge, with Midrand Beige and black Alcantara also available at no cost. The trim accents are carried over from the base model.
The X4 M's cargo area is considerably smaller than that of the cheaper and more practical X3 M, with 18.5 cubic feet versus the X3 M's 28.7. Fortunately, the seats fold in a 40/20/40 split, allowing for a maximum volume of 50.5 cubes. Nevertheless, that's better than Merc's GLC 63 can manage, with a maximum of 49.4 cubes. The X3 M is better still, though, maxing out at 62.7. Regardless of capacity, the X3 M is the one you want if you need practicality, as its conventional hatch allows for easier loading. Both BMW vehicles come with a power tailgate though, so Tom Cruise won't have to worry about jumping or adding extra stacks to his heels to close the back after a shopping trip.
In the cabin, front and rear passengers each share a pair of cupholders, while the door pockets feature recesses for additional beverage storage and/or wallets and keys. The center armrest in the front also has storage space, while the console features a nifty spot big enough for just about any smartphone.
The X4 M isn't short on features, and with a starting price north of $70,000, we'd be offended if it were. Adaptive LED headlights with auto high beams, heated wing mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, a rearview camera, a 12.3-inch driver info display, and a power tailgate are all standard. You also get keyless entry, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, ambient lighting, a panoramic sunroof, front and rear park sensors, cruise control, an adaptive suspension, and forward collision warning with low-speed automatic emergency braking, a drowsy driver system, along with blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, post-collision braking, and lane-keep assist. Options include a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats with ventilated fronts, dynamic cruise control, collision preparation, high-speed autonomous braking with collision mitigation, and a head-up display. Also available is an automatic parking system.
Although not the latest version of BMW's iDrive, the X4 M comes with a 10.25-inch system featuring navigation with traffic updates, a 20 GB hard drive, Apple CarPlay compatibility, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, HD Radio, SiriusXM satellite radio, and 16 speakers from Harman Kardon. The 600-watt system includes two subwoofers, seven tweeters, and seven different midrange speakers dotted throughout the cabin. The primary mode of operation is still the central rotary knob, but touch and steering-wheel and touch inputs are also possible. The system can also be upgraded to accept gesture control and feature wireless charging and Wi-Fi too. As is common on BMW products, Android Auto is not available at all, but after a recent announcement that it'd be brought to BMW products, we wouldn't be surprised to see late production models equipped with the feature.
The X4 M has not yet been rated by J.D. Power, but three recalls have already been issued that affect all X3 and X4 models for 2020. These include a faulty steering rack and a front axle with swivel bearings that could fail. A less serious recall was issued for a rearview camera that would not display. All three recalls were issued between September 25th and October 16th, 2019, so hopefully, they will have been resolved by now.
In terms of warranty, BMW offers a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty and coverage, a 12-year/unlimited mileage rust perforation warranty, and four years of roadside assistance.
Neither the X4 M nor the X3 M, or any variant of the regular X4, have been tested by the IIHS or NHTSA. However, the similar X3 received a full five stars from the latter agency and a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS when specced with all driver assistance features and the X4 M's standard adaptive LED headlights.
The X4 M features forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and low-speed automatic emergency braking as standard, as well as a rearview camera and front and rear parking sensors. Adaptive LED headlights with auto high beams are also standard, as are dual front airbags, side-impact airbags, and rollover curtain airbags. You also get lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, post-collision braking, and an SOS button. Front and rear crash preparation and a drowsy driver alert are included too. Options include a head-up display, adaptive cruise control, high-speed autonomous braking, an automatic parking system, and collision mitigation.
The X4 as a starting point is a relatively impractical fashion statement. If you value commodious space and genuine rear-seat comfort, there's no point in considering this car any further. The addition of the M Division's technical prowess makes it even less of a conventional utility vehicle, which is why this car is called a Sports Activity Vehicle instead. The stiff suspension, big wheels, and summer tires mean that you can't use this vehicle off-road and will likely find it a little uncomfortable, to say the least. Nevertheless, if you want a genuine M car that you can use when it's snowy, load a reasonable amount of stuff into, and take for an intense blast without tipping over, then maybe this vehicle can make a certain amount of sense. The engine is an absolute gem and bodes well for the future of all turbocharged M cars, not to mention the M3 and M4. The stability control systems allow you to either find the perfect line, or get sideways, and the gearbox is the perfect companion for both city crawling and track abuse. This isn't a vehicle that makes a lot of sense to a lot of people, but for the small niche it is intended for, it ticks all the boxes absolutely perfectly. For everyone else, get an X3.
Starting at $73,400 before a $995 destination and handling fee, the X4 M is a whopping $22,300 more than a regular X4. This buys you 473 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque, an eight-speed auto, M xDrive AWD, and a lot of features that include navigation, a panoramic sunroof, an adaptive suspension, a Vernasca leather interior, 20-inch wheels in performance rubber, and an impressive list of safety features. Speccing the X4 M Competition means you have to shell out at least $80,400, buying you 503 hp, a lot of gloss black accents and Competition badges, and the regular model's optional 21-inch wheels in a special design. Fully-loaded, this model will be fitted with all the available optional safety features, have a maximum speed limit of 177 mph, and also be accompanied by a price tag just shy of $90,000.
The BMW X4 M is available in regular and Competition flavors.
The base X4 M features a 473-hp, 442-lb-ft 3.0-liter twin-turbo straight-six. An active M differential, adaptive dampers, 20-inch wheels, adaptive LED headlights, and a 10.25-inch infotainment screen with SiriusXM, Apple CarPlay, navigation with real-time traffic updates and route adaption, and HD Radio are standard. Also included are Vernasca leather upholstery, 14-way power-adjustable heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, a panoramic sunroof, and navigation. Safety features include a rearview camera with front and rear parking sensors, forward-collision warning with low-speed autonomous braking and pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-keep assist.
The X4 M Competition is largely similar, but ekes 30 hp more out of the 3.0-liter mill and adds 21-inch wheels, standard Merino leather, unique gloss black accents, and a smattering of Competition badges.
Both models are fitted with the same xDrive all-wheel-drive system and eight-speed auto combo, with options including adaptive cruise control, forward-collision mitigation and high-speed braking, ventilated front seats, a head-up display, and wireless charging. Also available is a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, and gesture control for the infotainment system.
If you want the ultimate performance out of your X4 M, spend $2,500 on the M Driver's Package. This increases the top speed from 155 mph to 173 in the regular model and 177 mph in the Competition, and gets you a day of advanced driver training from BMW M. Ventilated front seats are considerably cheaper at $350, while a heated steering wheel is $190. Alternatively, you can select the Executive package for $2,500. This adds a head-up display, gesture control, wireless charging and Wi-Fi, heated rear seats, an automatic parking system, and the heated steering wheel as well. The Driving Assistance Plus package is also worth considering at $1,700, adding adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go and advanced collision mitigation.
If you're going to go for a vehicle like this, it's likely that you're not going to be too concerned with the practicality aspect of the vehicle. Therefore, you may as well go all-out and buy a Competition model. This frees up more power, dresses the body with bigger wheels, and adds Merino leather at no charge. The gloss-black exterior accents also go a long way in helping the X4 M look reasonably attractive, and this is a vehicle that needs all the help it can get. We'd definitely suggest spending the extra money on the driver aids, as the Driver Assistance Plus package only adds $1,700, but endows the vehicle with advanced collision mitigation systems and adaptive cruise control. We'd spend the $350 it costs to fit the SAV with ventilated front seats too. If you plan to use the vehicle to the best of its ability, the M Driver's Package will raise the speed limiter and teach you how to control it, but if not, spend the same money on the Executive package rather, adding heating to the rear seats, fitting a head-up display and parking assistant, and adding wireless charging and a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Cars in this segment aren't especially pretty, but the X4 M's chief rival, the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 Coupe, is arguably blessed with a more coherent and resolved design. Its starting price is $3,100 more than that of the X4 M, but the extra money buys you more torque (479 lb-ft vs 442) although you do lose out on power (469 hp vs 473). In S variant, the AMG is almost identical to the Competition model, with 503 hp and even more torque at 516 lb-ft from its rowdy twin-turbo V8. Nevertheless, the Merc is more economical, has a bigger gas tank, and can hold more volume in the cargo area. In the cabin, the Merc's infotainment system is poor, and the interior design is aging, whereas the X4 M is more modern and fresh. Real-world tests have shown very similar 0-60 times, but the X4 M Competition has a higher top speed of 177 mph when the limiter raised, whereas the GLC 63S taps out at 174 mph. Overall, a number of points favor each of these vehicles, but as a performance vehicle, the X4 M is arguably better, although it just can't match that AMG noise.
If you like the idea of the next compact M car's engine under the hood of your SAV but find the X4 M a little too ugly or impractical, the X3 M is your answer. Based on looks alone, we'd choose the X3 M, which manages to look modern and stylish without a silly pretend-coupe roofline. With identical power and acceleration figures, the X3 M makes more sense as an all-rounder, offering almost an inch more rear legroom and almost two inches more headroom in the back. You also get more than ten cubic feet of extra volume in the cargo area with the seats up and folded, you have 12.2 cubes extra to play with. The biggest reason to choose the mechanically-identical X3 M, however, is the price. The Competition version costs $76,900, just $3,500 more than a base X4 M. A regular X3 M is even cheaper, starting below $70k. With more space, arguably better looks, and a much lower price, it'd take an alien probe to sway us from the X3 M.