Driven: BMW X3 and X4 M Competition

We recently spent some time with these sporty Bavarian siblings. Our preference might surprise you.

What is it?
Make no mistakes, both SUVs are sportscars on stilts. Sportscars first and foremost thanks to the shared bi-turbocharged 3.0l inline sixer. It’s good for 375kW and 600Nm and handles the way a car should when it wears the M badge. Moreover when further augmented by the Competition badge. For the sake of brevity, I’m going to focus on the one I prefer – the X3. Simply because it has less compromises than the style-over-substance X4. I think they’re equally handsome and therefore, I’ll take the extra headroom on offer in the traditional SUV profile of the X3. Dealer’s choice so if you’re in the market for one over the other, feel free to pick your poison.

BMW X4 Competition

BMW X3 Competition

How does it look?
I already said it, handsome. Brutish, bold but thankfully devoid of BMWs new oversized grille for now. Instead you get oversized airdams, diffusers and aero for well, aerodynamics and cooling. M badges are frequent, ditto the Competition badges. And every pumped up arch is favorably filled by the 21 inch alloy wheels. A panzer then, and that’s just the exterior.

What about living with it?
Slip inside into the super familiar BMW cabin and you won’t be disappointed. The Bavarian firm know how to put together a contemporary luxury cabin, and in the X3 in particular, there is a wonderful amount of light making its way inside. Luxury accouterments are rife, and the technology and safety gear are in great supply. Toys. Screens. Every box is verily ticked, but there’s a performance bent that no driver can ignore thanks to carbon fibre surfaces and the shiny red start button and M1 and M2 toggles at the helm. Three hundred and seventy five kilowatts beckons.

BMW X3 Competition

How does it go?
Rapidly! If somewhat firmly – but I’m not complaining. The X3 and X4 M cars are SUVs by definition but they’re not the types you’d want to get muddy. Rather, they’re racetrack ready and short of that, make for excellent autobahn bullies. Also asks, thanks to M Division and their suspension technicians, it can make short and engaging work of your favourite mountain pass, whilst an intuitive 8-speed auto swaps your cogs. And with a garrulous, glorious boosted six-cylinder noise to boot. It’ll do 100kph in 4.1 seconds, max out at 285kph and will entertain you the whole time. Acceleration felt linear, and the center of gravity good and low, if not quite saloon-like.

Should you buy one?
You know, I know I said the M suspension was firm, but only when you want it to be. Leave it in a less sporty setting and you still have access to huge reserves of power and torque, but the ride stays supple and the X3 comes across as a luxury car. Again, perhaps this is why I prefer it to the X4. Maybe I’ve gotten old. Or maybe just in my ‘tread softly and carry large stick’ phase. With that said, the X3 doesn’t tread that softly, but it does carry a very, very large, turbocharged stick. Actually, it’s a mace. In a velvet glove.

Quick Stats: BMW X3 M Competition
Price: R1,642,000
Powertrain: bi-turbo 3.0l awd,  375kW, 600Nm, 8-speed auto
Performance: 0-100kph in 4.1 seconds, 285kph top speed, 10.6l/100km fuel consumption

BMW X3 Competition

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