BMW’s continued expansion of its performance-model lineup now includes the X3 and X4 in full M form, both of which will be produced at the automaker’s Spartanburg facility starting in April. Long expected, the two distinct models are further offered in Competition form, which allows the all-new S58 twin-turbo six-cylinder to deliver 503 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque.

The top competitors for the X3 and X4 M are vehicles such as the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio and Mercedes’ AMG GLC 63 SUV and GLC 63 S coupe, while Audi may eventually join in with an RS version of their Q5—if they ever decide to bring the model to the U.S. The currently available contenders use either a four-liter V8 or a 2.9-liter V6 to achieve marginally higher output than the X3 and X4 M and their Competition offshoots, but the comparison between all published specifications from the various manufacturers suggests that there will be very little between these high-strung mall-crawlers when they’re put to the test on pavement.

Performance aside, the X3 and X4 M are the newest of the bunch, and both use the new S58 M inline-six, while Mercedes relies on a four-liter V8 to get the job done and Alfa uses a heavily boosted Ferrari V8-derived 2.9-liter V6 with lower direct-injection fuel pressure than the BMW.

The M S58 engine is making its market debut in the M SAV and SAC; full details of the design can be found here. Like the S55 it replaces, the S58 uses twin mono-scroll turbochargers, but employs a closed-deck block design and a cylinder head with an integrated 3D-printed cooling core to increase rigidity and to promote efficient thermal management, while the direct-fuel-injection system is capable of the same 5,000 PSI that was first offered by the most current versions of the N63 and S63.

The X3 M and stablemate X4 M are much more than their engines and aggressive looks, however; the X3 has been the most popular BMW model in the U.S. for several months now, ever since the third-generation G01 platform became widely available in 2018. The X4, which is offered as a more aesthetically pleasing take on the same underpinnings. is intended as a less practical but sleeker alternative for those who don’t need the extra space. Until now, the most powerful versions of the X3 and X4 were the M40i trim levels, which offered more than enough output with 355 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque on tap. Although the bread and butter of X3 sales are four-cylinder 30i models, many of which are sold with RWD instead of xDrive, performance SUVs like those from the likes of Tesla, Mercedes, Audi, Alfa Romeo, and others have proven that there is indeed a market for derivatives that make 450 to 500 horsepower; consider them the vehicular embodiment of newly created wealth.

Beyond appropriately muscular exteriors, wider wheels, standard adaptive suspensions, and—of course!—quad exhaust tips, the new M models have also been given attractive cabins that appear quite sporty. Standard equipment on the inside includes premium sound by Harman Kardon, iDrive navigation with Apple CarPlay, Comfort Access, and an array of safety and collision-mitigation tech that’s simply too long to repeat here.

M models derived from the X range have always received exquisitely designed front seats, and those fitted in the X3 and X4 M follow the trend. Those well-versed with current M offerings will recognize the leather, which can be ordered in either black or Oyster, as Vernasca, while selecting one of the higher-horsepower Competition models unlocks bicolor black or Adelaide Grey with Sahkir Orange inserts.

Other combinations are available through BMW Individual as well, including the high-contrast Midrange Beige-and-black combination partially visible below. Carbon-fiber trim with a distinctly upmarket high-gloss finish is present as well, along with the newest version of the M Sport steering wheel, which features the same programmable red M buttons that made their debut on the F90 M5.

The eye-catching M shifter sprouting from the center console is another interesting element, as it is connected to the latest version of ZF’s eight-speed auto, which now is designated M8HP76 for all X3 and X4 M models. The transmission works with a specific version of M xDrive that has been adapted specifically to the X3 and X4 M, which both use specific M suspension setups. Like previous versions of performance X models like the X5 or X6 M, all-wheel motivation is permanent, and cannot be disabled, as it can in the F90 M5.

The G01 and G02 X3 and X4 generations debuted during 2017 and 2018 respectively, which means that they just barely miss being fitted with BMW’s latest Live Cockpit all-digital instrument-cluster display. No matter, though, as the M-specific array fitted to the X3 and X4 M is eye candy all on its own, even if it doesn’t incorporate the absolutely latest features.

Consistent with how BMW first brought the S63 V8 to market beneath the hoods of the X5 and X6 M back in 2010, the new S58 M inline six will initially be experienced by the public in the automaker’s newest SAV and SAC. This same power plant is expect to carry on in the next-generation M3 and M4 when they arrive, and could perhaps motivate the next-gen M2 and future unknown M models as well. While the technical specifics can be indulged in here, a brief comparison of output and factory-published zero-to-60 times of the BMWs and their competitors is visible below. Notice how the new M models are distinctly higher-revving than the alternatives.

Make and Model

Engine Disp, Type

Power (HP)

RPM Range

Torque (pound-feet)

RPM Range

Manufacturer 0-60

BMW X3 M, X4 M 3.0-liter Inline Six 473 5,600 – 7,300 442 2,600 – 5,500 4.1s
BMW X3 M, X4 M Competition 3.0-liter Inline Six 503 5,950 – 7,300 442 2,600 – 5,950 4.0s
Mercedes AMG GLC 63 SUV 4.0-liter V8 469 5,500 – 6,250 479 1,750 – 4,500 3.8s
Mercedes AMG GLC 63 S Coupe 4.0-liter V8 503 5,500 – 6,250 516 1,750 – 4,500 3.7s
Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio 2.9-liter V6 505 6,500 443 2,500 – 5,500 3.6s

While the X3 M, the X4 M, and their Competition sub-models may not be the fastest on paper, given BMW’s reputation for measuring engine output, no prospective buyer should be worried about the real-world performance of the upcoming performance SAV and SAC. Pricing has not yet been released, but production of both new blisteringly fast models is set to begin during April of this year at BMW Plant Spartanburg in South Carolina.—Alex Tock

[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]



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