2020 BMW X3 M / X4 M: First Drive Review

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceBMW M — A Step Beyond
BMW builds a wide variety of vehicles, ranging from 2-seat roadsters to large 7-passenger SUVs — the most popular in the USA by a large margin is the compact X3 crossover. And within that group of BMW buyers is a subset who desire something even more advanced and entertaining than the German automaker’s standard models — for those aficionados, BMW has the M Division. BMW models that wear the M badge get more power, aggressive styling and handling on par with some of the best sports cars in the world. Now BMW has taken its most popular model — and its sleeker X4 sibling — and given them the full M treatment, morphing these people movers into sports cars in SUV garb: the first-ever X3 M and X4 M.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceTasteful Design
Although the X3 M and X4 M are not overly flamboyant, they have been specifically designed to stand out from the standard X3 and X4. Up front are larger air intakes that provide a more aggressive look as well as the cooling needed for a more powerful engine (more later). The traditional kidney grille is all black, while the signature M gills are integrated into the front fenders. Unique M-design mirrors provide less drag. At the rear is a new diffuser with dual exhaust pipes on either side, while an M-specific roof spoiler sits above the hatch on both X3 M and X4 M.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceModel Lineup
Aside from their exterior styling, the 2020 BMW X3 M and X4 M are practically identical with only a few differing options. Both are also available in even higher-performance M Competition versions.

© BMW USABMW X3 M
With a base price of $69,900, the new BMW X3 M comes with a long list of standard equipment that includes automatic climate control, Vernasca leather seats with contrasting stitching, carbon fiber trim, heated power front seats, a Harman Kardon surround sound audio system, navigation, Apple CarPlay, ambient lighting, automatic high beams, a rearview camera, roof rails and a power tailgate. Also standard are the M Sport Differential, Adaptive M Suspension, M Compound brakes, Dynamic Damper Control, Aerodynamic Kit and 20-inch double-spoke bi-color wheels.

© BMW USABMW X4 M
The 2020 BMW X4 M is priced at $73,400 and includes all features of the X3 M with the addition of a panoramic moonroof.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceBMW X3 M Competition
While the X3 M is no slouch, the X3 M Competition turns the performance up a notch with more power and differentiated styling. Priced at $76,900, the X3 M Competition adds Merino leather with Alcantara trim, M sport seats and available M seat belts for no charge. In addition to the badging, the Competition stands apart with a high-gloss black grille surround, mirror caps and M gills; M sport exhaust with black-chrome tailpipes; and 21-inch V-Spoke jet back wheels.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceBMW X4 M Competition
The updates and additional features on the X3 M Competition are also part of the X4M Competition, which has a starting price of $80,400.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceUnder the Hood
Powering the new X3 M / X4 M is an all-new M TwinPower Turbo 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine — the most powerful 6-cylinder BMW has ever put in a production vehicle. This powerplant features a range of new, high-tech enhancements including a forged crankshaft that allows it to handle a high torque level and a redline of 7200 rpm. Output is 480 horsepower with 442 lb-ft of torque; however, for those who opt for the M Competition trims, power gets bumped to 510 horses. While peak torque starts at 2600 rpm in both versions, the M Competition keeps the torque at peak levels up to 5950 rpm.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience8-Speed Transmission
This new motor is teamed with a quick-shifting 8-speed M Steptronic transmission. Drivers can choose one of three shift modes that adjust how quickly and sharply gear changes occur. Manual mode is also available, which puts the control in the driver’s hands via paddle shifters.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceM xDrive
These newest M crossovers from BMW come standard with the latest version of the M xDrive intelligent all-wheel-drive system. The system works in concert with the stability control to provide the feel and dynamics of rear-wheel drive — power is only sent to the front wheels when traction gets lost at the rear. With M Dynamic Mode the driver can select M xDrive 4WD Sport, which allows all the power to be kept at the rear wheels making drifting possible. Best of all, the all-wheel-drive system is sufficient for keeping the X3 M / X4 M headed in the right direction — only extreme situations require intervention by the stability control.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperiencePerformance Stats
With this powerful engine under the hood, the 2020 BMW X3 M and X4 M can sprint to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds, while the Competition versions can complete the same task in 4.0 seconds. Although we didn’t have a measuring device during our press drive, the acceleration we experienced felt quicker than those numbers reflect. Top speed is limited to 155 mph, but with the optional M Driver’s Package, top speed is 174 mph — 177 mph in the Competition trims.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceDrive Modes
Drivers can simply climb into the X3M or X4M — without adjusting anything — and experience absolutely amazing performance. However, BMW provides drivers with quick control over a number of attributes: buttons on the center console can adjust engine performance, suspension damping, exhaust note and steering. The vehicle can be set up for Comfort, Sport or Sport+.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceInner Space
The cabin of the X3 M / X4 M has an upscale feel, especially when equipped with M Sport seats in extended Merino leather upholstery, as well as the carbon fiber trim throughout. The large display screen is easy to navigate, and the latest version of i-Drive is intuitive.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceM Features
The M leather steering wheel features two M buttons, which can be programmed to the driver’s liking. After selecting the steering, suspension, engine and transmission settings, these can be stored in one of the M buttons on the steering wheel, making it easy to recall the chosen configuration.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRear Seats
For a small crossover, the 2020 BMW X3 M / X4 M has a surprisingly roomy rear seat. There’s plenty of legroom even for taller adults, and headroom is also expansive — even in the sleeker X4 M. The middle seat is slightly more cramped as is common for a vehicle of this size, but three could fit in the rear seat if needed. Seats can be folded flat for additional cargo space.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceCargo Space
The 2020 BMW X3 M and X4 M may drive like sports cars, but there’s no question they provide the utility expected of an SUV. The X3 offers a bit more space in the cargo area based on the vehicles shape, but both have enough room for several pieces of luggage. Fold down the second row and the X3 has almost 63 cubic feet of space; the X4 has just over 50 cubic feet in the same configuration.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceOn the Road
BMW has always excelled at creating vehicles that serve up a comfortable ride while giving up nothing in terms of sporting performance. These new M variants are perfect examples of this ideal. On our drive through upstate New York in the X3 M Competition, we quickly appreciated the excellent ride quality while having so much power on tap. Slow vehicles on the two-lane roads were quickly dispatched — an activity that never fails to produce a smile. And perhaps a little cackle of laughter.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceEasy Driver
From behind the wheel, there is no distinguishable difference between the X3 M and X4 M — choosing between these two vehicles is all about style and not much of anything else. We did spend our time driving the Competition trims and thoroughly enjoyed the added power as well as the very pleasing exhaust note. These high-powered crossovers are perfectly comfortable cruising around town or pushing the limits on a twisty road — or actual racetrack.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceOn Track
We can’t really call this M-powered crossover a sports car, but after a few laps of Monticello Raceway in upstate New York, it’s clear that the X3 M and X4 M can easily perform at levels similar to many sports cars. We enjoyed several laps around Monticello in the X4 M Competition and came away very impressed. This is a 5-passenger vehicle with room plenty of room for cargo, yet we were able to blast down the straight at speeds exceeding 130 mph with power to spare.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceTrack Car
In corners the X4M Competition has barely any perceptible body lean and steering is spot-on. Grip is strong throughout corners, making for quick exits. On a few occasions during our track time the rear end would kick out a bit, but this was easily corrected with no drama. Clicking the paddle shifters results in very quick up and down shifts; however, we found that leaving the transmission in automatic held the shift points exactly where we’d want them. After several high-speed laps, the brakes had not faded and were still as strong as when we first began lapping — impressive for a road car, er, SUV.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRight for You?
There are plenty of vehicles on the market that try to be the answer to multiple driver needs. We can say with absolute certainty that if the need is for an SUV and a sports car, the X3 M and X4 M are indeed the answer. The proper BMW M style combined with a useful interior, comfortable ride and extreme performance makes the X3 M and X4 M an excellent everyday choice for the enthusiast whose life can’t fit into a sports car. And for those looking to “Buy American,” there is some consolation in the fact that the X3 M and X4 M are built in Spartanburg, South Carolina — BMW’s largest production facility in the world.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRating: 9.0
Pros: Excellent handling; impressive performance; easy everyday ride.
Cons: HUD disappears with polarized sunglasses; stiff rear seat; no Android Auto.
Bottom Line: Excellent sports car option for those who need to drive a crossover.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 BMW X3 M Competition

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 BMW X3 M Competition

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 BMW X3 M Competition

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 BMW X3 M Competition

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 BMW X4 M Competition

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 BMW X3 M Competition

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 BMW X3 M X4 M Competition

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 BMW X3 M X4 M Competition

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 BMW X3 M Competition

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 BMW X3 M Competition

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 BMW X3 M Competition

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 BMW X3 M Competition

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 BMW X3 M Competition

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 BMW X3 M Competition

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 BMW X3 M Competition

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