|✓ Intoxicating horsepower||☓ Woeful fuel economy|
|✓ Great performance, even for a tall crossover||☓ Bland interior design|
|✓ Styling||☓ Extremely firm ride|
|✓ All-weather capability||☓ Unreliable Apple CarPlay interface|
|✓ Did we mention performance?|
Decades ago, BMW defined the term sports sedan. For me, that was more or less an oxymoron. What relation did a sedan have with a sports car? Today, it’s relatively common for a carmaker to imbue sports car qualities into their performance cars.
Now that crossovers dominate the American car market, BMW is toting up more performance into their lineup of sport activity vehicles (SAV) and adds the 2020 X3 M Competition to the 500 horsepower club. Think of the M Competition trim as an M40i on the juice, featuring stiffer springs, retuned bushings, multiple chassis braces and adaptive shocks. The sum of which is absolute perfect control, whichever way you dial in the suspension and steering settings.
What to like
Rockstar driving capability
BMW claims the X3 M Competition can jump to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds. A stat fast enough to put the sport-ute into an exclusive club that includes the M3 Competition package, Mercedes-AMG C 63 S and Audi RS 5 Sportback.
Dialing in the suspension setup to match your preferences takes a little experimenting as there are no preset configurations. After figuring out how steering response, ride firmness and throttle response buttons change performance, you can program the red M1 and M2 buttons on the steering wheel for pre-programmed modes.
The ride is on the firmer side, so don’t expect the plush ride of, say, a Mercedes-Benz GLS. At the same time, cornering is mostly flat and the sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tires do wonders at pushing the limits of adhesion–even in wet conditions.
For instant gratification, press the red button on the steering wheel. I programmed the M2 button to change all the settings for suspension, steering and throttle response into Sport mode with a single press of the thumb. Press it again, and settings settle back into comfort mode.
BMW interiors might not garner accolades compared to Volvo or Audi, but the design is characteristically functional and the quality of materials befits its premium price. Cabin accoutrements for driver and passengers are brought together handsomely. Without question, audiophiles will enjoy the beautiful sound of the 16-speaker Harman Kardon system.
What could use some improvement
I used the X3 for a 1,200-mile road trip over the holidays. A lot of ground was covered between Northern and Southern California, a lot of which was in soaking wet conditions. The all-wheel drive system performed admirably and inspired confidence when the weather turned sour. The downside was logging all those miles on a stiff suspension that felt jarring even when in comfort mode.
Yes, the X3 is flat when cornering hard and brings it home without delay when hauling in a straight line. However, what was missing was the exuberance of a genuine sports car, which tacitly comes through the steering wheel, pedals, and the sheer thrill of speed.
Broken Apple CarPlay
Inexplicably, Apple CarPlay failed on the first day of my trip. Navigating the spaghetti network of roads in Los Angeles was painless with Google Maps, but I had to fall back on the clunky interface and BMW’s mapping program after the infotainment system lost CarPlay capability.
Other high-horsepower crossovers to browse
If you prefer a fastback design, you can get the X4 M with the same 473 horsepower 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-six and check off the M Competition box to get the upgraded 503 horsepower powertrain. Either body style is said to take 4.1 seconds to reach 60 mph in standard guise and 4.0 seconds flat in more potent Competition form.
The BMW X3 and X4 M Competition are hardly unique, as performance SUVs are concerned. Here is a list of other crazy-horsepower SUVs that push the boundaries of performance and luxury:
|Hot SUVs with over 500 horsepower||Power|
|Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupe||503 hp|
|Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio||505 hp|
|Tesla Model X Performance||518 hp|
|Porsche Cayenne Turbo||541 hp|
|Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic||550 hp|
|Jaguar F-Pace SVR||550 hp|
|Mercedes-AMG GLE 63||550 hp|
|Range Rover Sport SVR||575 hp|
|Mercedes-AMG GLS 63||577 hp|
|Mercedes-AMG G 63||577 hp|
|Maserati Levante Trofeo||582 hp|
|Bentley Bentayga Speed||626 hp|
|Lamborghini Urus||641 hp|
|Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk||707 hp|