by Michael Butler
It seemed like an inevitability that one day BMW would affix an M-badge to the rear of the X4 Sport Activity Coupe, resulting in a high-performance version called the BMW X4 M. It joins the battle for the fastest compact luxury SUV coupe, a battle that sees it duel with the likes of the Mercedes-AMG GLC63 and Porsche Macan Turbo. This brawler is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six and produces 473 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque, with the Competition Package adding another 30 ponies on top of that. Power is sent to all fours via an eight-speed automatic transmission. It looks great and goes like an absolute bat out of hell, but the interior isn't the most spacious, although it's built with an eye for detail that stands up to the best in its class. What makes the X4 M so unique is the way it drives: it feels smaller and more capable than what the numbers suggest, and is truly one of the best driving cars in its class. Starting at $73,400, it is also one of the most affordable.
The 2021 BMW X4 M is at the receiving end of a few notable changes. Standard equipment for 2021 includes SiriusXM with 360L and a one-year all-access subscription, and Android Auto. The biggest change for the new model year has to be the Competition Package, which is no longer a standalone trim, but is now an actual package, as the name suggests. The rest of the features remain the same, which means you get a good helping of goodies.
3.0-liter Twin-Turbo Inline-6 Gas
The X4 M is a sleek looking machine that manages to combine crossover practicality with an elegant form and brutish front end. The end result is a vehicle that conjures images of going fast, even when standing still. It gets large front intakes, as well as quad M exhaust exits, an M rear spoiler, and roof rails in a high-gloss Shadowline finish. The X4 M rolls on a set of 20-inch double-spoke bi-color orbit grey wheels with performance non-run flat tires. Optional wheels include 21-inch V-Spoke bi-color wheels. LED lighting features front to back. The Competition Package adds features such as an air breather inlay and tailpipe finishers in black chrome, and kidney struts in high-gloss black.
The 2021 X4 M is classified as a compact luxury SUV and shares similar dimensions with the Mercedes-AMG GLC63 and Porsche Macan Turbo. The numbers read as follows: length of the X4 M is 187.5 inches, the width is 75.9 inches, and the height is 63.7 inches. Curb weight comes in at a bulky 4,590 pounds with a weight distribution of 49.9 percent in the front, and 50.1 percent in the rear.
The slippery SUV looks the part in any color, but we prefer it in darker hues of Silver and Gray. BMW presents the M SUV in a range of seven different exterior colors, with only Alpine White being a no-cost option. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as this crisp white also looks pretty good. The optional color range starts off with Black Sapphire Metallic and continues with Dark Graphite Metallic, Phytonic Blue Metallic, Donington Grey Metallic, and Toronto Red Metallic, all of which cost $550. Finally, Sunstone Metallic will cost you $1,950. This color looks good in photos, but we prefer the Dark Graphite Metallic.
Sure, the X4 M carries a bunch of people and their stuff, and it can even conquer a street curb every now and then, but let's be honest, the main reason people are going to buy this car is because of its performance potential. With tons of turbo power on offer, the X4 M is faster than most sports cars. Pin the throttle and the hunchbacked machine will accelerate from 0 to 60 in only 4.1 seconds and will continue on to a top speed of 155 mph. Spec the Competition Package, and the top speed is increased to 173 mph while 0-60 mph takes a tenth-of-a-second less. In comparison, the AMG GLC63 will sprint to sixty in 3.8 seconds (3.6 in S guise), while the Porsche Macan Turbo does the same run in a similar 4.1 seconds. The secret to the X4 M's success is power sourced from an S58 twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engine, the same unit that will be found in the upcoming BMW M4 coupe. Power goes to all four corners, enabling immense off-the-line grip.
The BMW X4 M is available with a single engine and transmission choice, but what a combo it is. Power comes in the form of an S58 twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-six engine that produces a healthy 473 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque between 2,600 rpm, and 5,600 rpm, which gives you a wide window to play with. Outputs are channelled to all four wheels with an eight-speed M Sport automatic transmission acting as the intermediary. The Competition Package adds more boost, an additional 30 horses, but torque remains the same.
As a precursor for what to expect in the upcoming M4, the X4 M is simply monumental. Not only does this engine sound better than the old S55, but it boasts a true duality of comfort and performance in equal measure. It will happily sit in traffic in fully automatic mode. Under 3,000 rpm, there is a hint of turbo lag, but this seemingly disappears when you opt to go into Sport Mode. For town cruising, there is more than enough power, and you'll be zipping the kids from school to home in record time. Out on the highway, this car shines: the combination of a smooth-shifting transmission, and a wad of torque, means that it overtakes with force. It's simply brutal in full attack mode, and the eight-speed auto is as snappy as any dual-clutch available.
It is truly amazing how far manufacturers have come in their ability to make large cars feel small. We're not saying the X4 M is massive, but it is still a tall car with SUV aspirations, but what BMW has managed to do here is truly astounding. Out on the road, it feels beautifully well-rounded from a handling perspective, but even in its softest drive modes, the suspension feels filled with concrete. Still, that's a compromise you're going to have to be willing to make if you want this level of performance. The X4 M rides on coil springs that have been set up for sporty driving, and this can be felt at lower speeds, where the ride can feel jarring over rough surfaces. On the highway, in its most comfortable setting, the X4 M will make for a pleasurable travel companion. Sport and Sport Plus modes are best reserved for the track, where glassy surfaces help to avoid jarring crashes, but even still, it feels unnecessarily stiff.
The X4 M's all-wheel-drive system allows for a rear-biased mode, which grants some tail-happy skids, and the traction control can be fully deactivated for even more trouble. But despite the rear bias, it's amazingly stable around corners and manages to keep its nose flat and tucked at all times, belying its high-riding nature almost entirely. The brakes are sharp and suit the X4 M's dynamic ability to a tee. Fitting the Competition package means a set of thicker anti-roll bars and a set of 21-inch wheels that do nothing for road comfort, but if, for some reason, you regularly track your SUV, it will shave split seconds off your lap times.
SUV, high performance, and fuel economy are three phrases that shouldn't go together - yet here we are. Performance SUVs enjoy a healthy share of the car market, but unfortunately, we are yet to meet one that can offer exceptional gas mileage. The Bimmer is a great car to drive and is brutally fast, but it pays for this at the gas pumps. The EPA rates that it will manage abysmal fuel consumption figures of 14/19/16 mpg city/highway/combined for both the standard and the Competition-spec car. That is lousy, to say the least. In comparison, the Porsche Macan Turbo will manage a more respectable 17/22/19 mpg. The X4 M has a fuel capacity of 17.2 gallons, which means you're not going to get a lot of range on a tank. Even when driven gently, expect no more than 275 miles in mixed conditions.
As with any BMW product, the interior of the X4 M is rather exquisite, especially considering the fact that it is an M car, which allows it a bit more expression. Getting in and out is easy thanks to a slightly lifted ride height and wide-opening doors, and once inside, you'll be taken aback by how well built the interior feels. It goes without saying that it looks and feels sporty too. Space in the front is ample but gets tight in the rear, and rearward visibility also suffers due to the sloping roof. Notable interior features include automatic three-zone climate control and Wi-Fi hotspot capability with a three-month/3G trial.
The BMW X4 M is half SUV, half coupe, so in theory, it should be able to swallow a fairly sizable family while looking good doing so. The compact SUV provides seating for five adults, with the front two occupants receiving a good dose of space, while those in the rear suffer slightly. Six-footers will find no issue getting in and out of the front seats, but will have to dip their heads when getting in the back. BMW claims 37.2 inches of headroom in the rear, but this measurement is seemingly taken from the leading edge of the seat to the roof - it dips more as the roof trails towards the rear, so taller occupants may be uncomfortable back there. The front seats are grippy things that offer excellent support, especially when driving with more than the average amount of enthusiasm. They offer four-way power lumbar support, two-way power side bolsters, two-way manual headrests, and thigh support, while the rear seatbacks also offer some adjustment. The optional M Sport seats are proper bucket-style racing seats that offer the maximum levels of support but may not be very welcoming of those with a larger frame.
Being a BMW, the X4 M's interior is covered in premium materials that add to the individual experience provided by the car, overall. The dashboard is covered in BMW's faux-leather SensaTec, while the headliner is finished off in an Anthracite color scheme. You also get M door sills and driver footrest. The cargo area features velour carpeting. Equipping the Competition package introduces Sport seats with diamond pattern in Merino leather with Midrand Beige as an exclusive color option, as well as the legendary tri-colors on the seatbelts. The trim options are carbon fiber, aluminum Carbon Structure, Grey Poplar Wood, and Fineline Cove Matte Finish Wood. The standard Vernasca leather upholstery can be had in black or oyster for no additional charge, but there are six optional Merino leather selections, toos, which include Sakhir Orange/Black, Adelaide Grey/Black, plain Black, Ivory White,Midrand Beige with contrast stitching, and Tartufo, which will cost you an extra $1,000. The Competition package changes the Vernasca leather to Merino.
How much cargo an SUV can carry is one of the most essential factors when buyers look at purchasing one. It might mean a tad less for performance-minded versions, but at the end of the day, people are buying these SUVs for the perceived practicality they offer. Compared to other coupe SUV rivals such as the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 Coupe, the BMW provides plenty of space. Behind the rear seats, you will find 18.5 cubic feet of cargo room, which is almost one cubic foot more than what you get in the Macan Turbo. It's enough space to fit a good haul of groceries, or two extra tires for that illegal suburban drag race you regularly tell your wife you don't attend. Folding down the 40/20/40 split fold-down rear seats opens that space up to a decent 50.5 cu. ft. which is over two cubes less than you get in the Porsche.
Small items can be stored in the front glove box, front center console storage bin, and you also get dual cup holders front and rear, a rear armrest, and a storage compartment package that includes various storage nooks.
As an M model, the US-market X4 M comes with a healthy number of standard features, but only one trim configuration. Standard features include an advanced vehicle and key memory system that can remember the most recently used climate-control temperature and air-distribution settings, amongst others. You get an engine start/stop button, and Comfort Access keyless entry with a hands-free trunk lid opening and power tailgate. The window wipers are rain-sensing, and there's multi-color ambient lighting in play. Rear privacy glass keeps the creeps at bay, and a panoramic moonroof with a fully-automatic two-piece glass system lets the fresh air in. Speaking of fresh air, there's a three-zone automatic climate control system, while the power-adjustable seats get three-stage heating, as well as four-way lumbar, two-way side bolstering, and two-way manual headrest adjustment. The X4 M also includes Wi-Fi hotspot capability. Standard driver assistance features comprise frontal collision warning, blind-spot detection, dynamic cruise control, and lane departure warning. Optional features, such as ventilated seats and a heated steering wheel, can be added on.
The infotainment system in the X4 M isn't an all-new system in the grand scheme of things, but is one of the latest BMW has to offer. In comparison to the Porsche Macan, the system is easier to use and more intuitive, especially for buyers migrating from an older BMW model. The interior is, in part, dominated by a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 10.25-inch central touchscreen display, which renders all infotainment settings and menus. The system can be controlled by voice, touch, and the iDrive touchpad controller. The setup includes an AM/FM radio receiver with CD and MP3 and SiriusXM satellite radio. Sound is channeled via a Harman Kardon surround sound system with a 600-watt amplifier and 16 speakers.
The X4 range has been affected by a number of recalls, and the X4 M has seen six of these. Although the 2021 model was exempt from the list at the time of writing, 2020 iterations were not so lucky. Issues at the heart of the recalls range from steering gear tie rods that could become damaged, seat belt sensors that would not detect when the seatbelt is engaged, and an improperly tightened instrument panel casing, to a faulty steering rack, non-functioning backup cameras, and weakened front axle swivel bearings.
The 2021 X4 M is covered by a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, a 12-year corrosion warranty, a four-year/50,000-mile drivetrain warranty, a three-year/36,000-mile maintenance plan, and roadside assistance for four years. There has been no rating issued by J.D. Power with regards to predicted reliability.
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has subjected the BMW X4 M to review, having not even put the standard X4 range through evaluations for crashworthiness and safety. But the mechanically identical X3 has been evaluated by both, managing a five out of five-star review from the NHTSA, and a 2019 Top Safety Pick + from the IIHS.
The X4 M is loaded with contemporary safety features that should keep you in one piece in case of an accident. Safety features for cars sold in the USA include dual-stage deployment airbags for front-seat passengers, front side, and side curtain airbags. There's front and rear park distance control, adaptive LED headlights, and an active protection system that pre-loads seatbelts, closes the windows, and includes fatigue and focus alert. Driver assistance features include frontal collision warning, active blind-spot detection, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. The optional Driving Assistance Package augments the consignment with cruise control distance assistance, along with extended collision mitigation assistance.
The X4 M can be viewed in two ways: It's either a rock hard performance SUV that shows a giant middle finger to the concept of comfort and practicality for the sake of style and performance, or, it's an over-engineered machine that compromises on the essence of what an SUV is supposed to be. While the high levels of performance simply can't be disputed, we tend to be of the opinion that the X4 M is a little too harsh for day to day life. The fact that an owner is unlikely to take an SUV to a track day further cements this notion, as it's not like the compromise is made up for in other logical avenues. Sure, it's the most spacious of the other coupe-like crossovers, and the tech, safety, and convenience features are all impressive, but it's just a little too hardcore for what the average buyer in this segment is looking for. A Macan is more comfortable, albeit at a far higher price, and the Mercedes-AMG GLC63 has more comfort and more character. Still, as a taste of what's to come in the BMW M4, the X4 M is a mighty impressive engineering feat.
You're going to have to cough up some serious dough to get behind the wheel of this blistering mom-mobile. BMW asks a base price of $73,400 for the privilege of owning one, but the good news is that the BMW X4 M's price is relatively low compared to competitors. The Porsche Macan Turbo starts with an MSRP of $84,600 while the Mercedes-AMG GLC63 Coupe which costs $76,500 as a 2020 model with an increase likely for 2021. These two can also be loaded with options to drive the price sky-high, but the X4 M, even when fully loaded, tops out at $92,100.
The BMW X4 M is a one-trim-only car, so what you see is what you get. Power is provided by a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engine, which sends 473 horses to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. The exterior features LED headlights and taillights, 20-inch double-spoke bi-color orbit grey wheels, a power moonroof, and roof rails. On the inside, the X4 M has power-adjustable and heated seats, tri-zone automatic climate control, and keyless entry with push-button start. Audio is delivered by a 16-speaker Harman Kardon sound system tethered to a 10.25-inch infotainment system including navigation, Bluetooth streaming, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto, Wi-Fi connectivity, and SiriusXM radio.
BMW gives new owners a few interesting options when buying a new X4 M. The exterior gets a few color options, the most notable being the $1,950 Sunstone Metallic, and you also get to choose a set of $1,200 bi-color orbit grey 21-inch wheels. The Driving Assistance Plus Package consists of adaptive cruise control with semi-autonomous capabilities and extended collision mitigation assistance for $1,700. Our favorite optional package has to be the Competition Package, which, as the name implies, is now a package instead of a standalone trim as it was last year. For a sizable fee of $7,000, it fits an M Sport exhaust system, extended Shadowline trim, M seatbelts, and M Sport seats. It also lowers acceleration times by a tenth of a second, and bolsters outputs with 30 horsepower. The Executive Package costs $2,500 and consists of Parking Assistant Plus, a head-up display, gesture control, wireless phone charging, front and rear heated seats, and a heated steering wheel. For those who want to hit the track, BMW offers the M Driver's Package, which gives you the opportunity to go for a day-long high-speed driving course at a BMW Performance Center. It also raises the speed limit to 173 mph. Standalone options include a heated steering wheel for $190, front ventilated seats for $350, M Sport seats for $950, and an M Carbon Exterior Package, which outfits your vehicle with an M Carbon air curtain, an M Carbon blade for the front, and an M Carbon rear spoiler for $4,100.
You only get one option for 2021, so you'll have to tick some options to spec your X4 M above the base model. If it were up to us, we would opt for a Dark Graphite Metallic paint job. Inside, we would get Merino leather seats finished in Tartufo, which requires the $950 M Sport seats to be added, but we'd retain the standard carbon fiber trim. Of the packages on offer, we wouldn't be able to say no to the luxury-packed Executive Package for the extra practicality and comfort of heating for both front and rear seats, Parking Assistant Plus, a head-up display, gesture control, and wireless phone charging. For some added sportiness we would also go for the M Carbon Exterior Package to get the M carbon rear spoiler, M carbon mirror caps, as well as single-piece carbon finishers around the exhaust pipes.
The Mercedes-AMG GLC63 is one of the fastest SUVs globally with a sub-eight-minute lap time around the Nurburgring in S form, and one of the X4 M's chief competitors. This mega SUV packs a serious punch, but at the same time is a refined daily driver and practical cruiser. Under the hood lies a turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 producing 469 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque, which is lower than the X4 M, but the S version ups those outputs to 503 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque; a serious power difference. The 0 to 60 time is dealt with in 3.6 seconds, which destroys the X4 M's time of four seconds. On the road, the GLC63 is the more relaxed and comfortable car to drive, especially at low speeds, fitting the bill better as a luxury SUV. The BMW is sharper, however, but pays for this with a rock hard ride. The interior of the Mercedes is a more special place to be in, and the craftsmanship is impeccable. At $76,500, the Merc isn't much more expensive, and we feel it makes for a better daily driver.
The first thing worth noting is the price difference between these cars: the Porsche Macan Turbo is $11,200 more expensive than the BMW. Once you get over that fact, you can start to focus on what's really important: which one is better. The Porsche is powered by a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 that produces a lower 434 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque. The Porsche makes the best of that power in all configurations; it has a zero to sixty time of 4.3 seconds, or 4.1 seconds with the Sport Chrono package, but still won't match the BMW for acceleration. On the road, the Macan is either pillowy or stiff, thanks to its bipolar adaptive suspension, but either way you swing it, it handles great and is just as good at hitting the corners. The interior is a grand place to be but suffers from the same limited back seat space thanks to a sloping rear roof. The Porsche also doesn't offer as much tech as the BMW, and you'll have to fork out for optional extras to match the level of goodies in the Bimmer. The Macan does, however, offer slightly more cargo space with the seats folded down, but it's not enough to pay $11k extra for. Both are highly accomplished, but the BMW is the better performance deal for the money.