Despite the incredible proliferation of crossovers throughout BMW’s lineup, the brand has been slow to add M variants of the high-riding machines. Until this year, the only BMW crossovers to get the M treatment have been the X5 and its low-roof twin, the X6. But now the company has added not just M, but M Competition versions of its X3 and X4 compact crossovers.
The company has gone to significant lengths to upgrade the vehicles for M duty, which we focused on during this drive, since we’ve covered the crossovers’ practicality and comfort in our previous reviews of the basic models. Though we had limited time in the X3 M, most of our time, both on the road and track, was spent in a 2020 X4 M Competition. It’s clear BMW M’s extensive lengths to improve the model have paid off in a quick and sporty crossover, but it’s one that you should think twice about before using on a daily basis.
From the outside, neither M vehicle looks much different from its normal kin, save for more aggressive grilles and spoilers. But underneath, there isn’t a whole lot to connect them.
The M models get uniquely tuned adjustable shocks, bushings, and even a new steering rack. More chassis bracing has been added, too. The brakes feature 15.6-inch rotors and four-piston calipers up front, and 14.6-inch rotors and one-piston calipers in the back. And the only difference between the regular M and the M Competition, besides the aforementioned power increase, is that the Competition gets stiffer sway bars.
At the same time, the steering is silent about road conditions, something M cars have been bad about the past few years. Choosing sportier settings only adds heft rather than communication. The brakes are overkill for the street. Press too hard on the soft pedal and you’re in for a sudden stop, at least until you’re used to the brakes’ aggressive bite.
The chassis gives you loads of warning when it starts to understeer or oversteer, so it’s easy to keep the car under control. The steering remains indifferent, but at least it’s accurate and builds weight naturally. The brakes always delivered strong, confidence-inspiring stopping power, though the pedal still felt uncomfortably soft.
What BMW has created may not be a great daily driver, but the X4 M Competition and its more practical X3 twin are still impressive. It goes incredibly fast, and it doesn’t fall apart on track. In fact it relishes a closed course. And isn’t that what an M car is all about?