BMW X3 M Competition review

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

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Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

BMW's X3 M Competition is a 510hp SUV powerhouse. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.

Ten Second Review

With this X3 M Competition model, BMW's M division turns its attention to the Munich maker's mid-sized SUV and creates a remarkably uncompromised road burning end result. An M3 crossover? That's about the size of it.


It wasn't so long ago, with products like BMW's X5 M and X6 M, that many were questioning whether the Munich marque's M motorsport division should be making SUVs. Now though, and looking into the future, you wonder just much of this sub-brand's output won't be of SUV models. We've already had three in recent times, the XM Plug-in Hybrid following on from the X4 M Competition and the subject here, the X3 M Competition.

As the name suggests, those latter two models are basically the same car, the X4 variant simply endowed with a lower roof line and a wider rear track. Which makes the X3 M Competition the most practical and family-orientated of the two. Though how practical and family-orientated a mid-sized SUV with 510hp and a £90,000 price tag could ever be is open to question.

Driving Experience

Even if you happen to disapprove of the idea of BMW's M division meddling with an X3 SUV, you can't deny that the job has been done properly here - even before you start looking beneath the bonnet. The steel coil suspension has been fully re-tuned, the brakes are uprated, the steering upgraded and an actively locking rear differential added. Plus there's the highly configurable four-wheel-drive system from the current BMW M5.

The key though, as with any BMW M car, lies with the engine, which as enthusiasts might expect is the 'S58'-series high performance straight-six 3.0-litre twin turbo unit borrowed from the M3. For our market, it only comes only in top 'Competition' spec, which means 510hp and 650Nm of torque, figures that no other BMW six cylinder engine in history has surpassed. It's quite a powerplant, with a forged crankshaft, an indirect intercooler, a lightweight cylinder head and twin monoscroll turbo chargers boosting at up to 2.3 bar. Which first means that when you hit the big red starter button, it sounds satisfyingly snarly. And second of course guarantees that it's also very, very fast. Helped by launch control, 62mph from rest is just 3.8s away en route to a top speed which would probably be in the 180mph region if the limiter didn't click in at 155mph.

As with all proper M cars, you use the central screen to set up your preferences for engine response, exhaust note, stability intervention and the change times of the M Steptronic 8- speed paddleshift auto gearbox. Then save your favourite settings into the twin red M buttons mounted on the steering wheel.

Design and Build

The visual changes which set this M Competition variant apart are predictably subtle. There are M-specific front and rear aprons. And your eye will be drawn to the vertically arranged and elongated side air intakes, framed by trim elements in high-gloss black, which is also used for the caps of the aerodynamically-optimised M exterior mirrors and the characteristic M gills integrated in the air breathers. You get big 21-inch wheels and, as with the M3, there's a multi-channel rear diffuser, which incorporates a pair of chrome tailpipes on either side.

Inside, there are M Sport seats which have electrically adjustable head rests and an illuminated M logo. The air vents have galvanised trim and the dashboard and doors get carbon fibre inserts. The M leather multi-function steering wheel features contrast stitching in the BMW M colours and an open 6 o'clock spoke. The key difference though, with the interior of this M Competition model is the re-designed control island on the centre console, which includes two extra buttons in addition to the M gear selector with its Drivelogic rocker switch: these being the BMW Controller and the red engine start button. As with other M cars, two individually configured versions of your favoured M drive set-up can be permanently stored and retrieved at any time using the two red M buttons on the steering wheel.

As with lesser X3 variants, you get the brand's 'Live Cockpit Professional' screen arrangement, with both instrument display and central monitor being 12.3-inches in size. The instrument display offers, amongst other things, an 'M View' with specific displays (adopted from the BMW M8). M-specific content is also available with the optional Head-up display. Otherwise, it's pretty much as with every other X3. There's plenty of headroom in the back and comfortable space for a couple of adults. Plus you get a decently shaped 550-litre boot which can be extended to 1,600-litres by folding the 40:20:40-split rear bench.

Market and Model

The X3 M Competition retails at around £92,000, which is £1,760 cheaper than its X4 M Competition stablemate. Of course, as the two cars are mechanically identical, it's only fair to see them priced so similarly, although historically, that hasn't stopped BMW pitching cars that are broadly similar under the skin at vastly different prices. M5 and M8 anyone? Nevertheless, around ninety grand might seem quite a whack for a fast X3 and some will ask whether this M Competition version is really worth nearly £30,000 more than the talented X3 M40i model.

Of course, you get a lot for the asking figure, particularly inside where signature M details include red accents for the M buttons on the M leather steering wheel and the start/stop button on the centre console. The selector lever with-Drivelogic switch is leather surfaced with an embedded M logo and stitching in M colours. An anthracite-coloured BMW Individual headliner and interior trim strips in Carbon Fibre High-gloss are standard. Fine-grain Merino black leather trim is standard as are M sport seats, which are electrically adjustable and heated. These seats have pronounced side bolsters, integrated head restraints and an illuminated model badge.

In addition to Carbon Black metallic and Brooklyn Grey metallic, there are two new paint finishes reserved exclusively for the X3 M Competition - Marina Bay Blue metallic and Sao Paulo Yellow. In addition, a wide range of BMW Individual paint finishes are available, such as the matt finish Frozen Marina Bay Blue metallic.

Cost of Ownership

BMW has made great strides in improving its M division's straight six engine but you still won't be expecting too much in terms of efficiency here. You shouldn't be. The combined cycle WLTP-rated efficiency figures range between 25.7 and 26.2mpg, but if you regularly achieve that, then you really shouldn't have bought this car in the first place: you know where we are. The CO2 reading varies between 247-250g/km, which means that the BiK Benefit in Kind taxation rate is a lofty 37%.

Even to get anywhere near the figures we just quoted, you'll need to drive with considerable restraint, with the engine in its 'Efficient' M Menu setting and the centre console 'M Mode' button set in its most sensible 'Road' format. You can monitor just how much high octane fuel you're using via a graphical read-out provided in the centre screen's 'Journey Data' section, part of a 'Driving Information' section that also has an 'Energy flow' graphic.

But of course as an X3 M Competition owner, that's the last thing you'll want to do. Drive this car in anger as it was meant to be driven and the figures we've given you will of course disappear in a high octane haze. And if you use your right boot in anger a good percentage of the time, you'll certainly chew through consumables like tyres and brake pads. Insurance is as expensive as you'd expect from a car with that sort of potency under the bonnet (group 45E), but residual values should hold up well.


Make no mistake, the X3 M Competition is a serious driver's car. If you came away from the X3 M40i doubting that any X3 could ever be that, then we think this M model crossover has the power to convince you otherwise.

That doesn't mean it's an automatic choice in its class. You might prefer a rival Porsche Macan GTS model's transformative air suspension. Or like more the way a Jaguar F-PACE SVR flows more smoothly over undulating tarmac. And you can certainly get the same performance with more sensible running costs from a new-era Mercedes-AMG GLC 63S. But none of these rivals have quite the authentic motorsport feel of an X3 M Competition. To have instilled this in a family SUV is quite a feat. But if anyone was going to achieve that, you'd put your money on BMW's M division to do it.

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