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BMW X4 M Competition Review

BMW's oddball compact SUV gets a 510 hp engine. Is it a true M car though?

Our review of the BMW X4 M might seem a bit repetitious, following immediately from the X3 M. In many respects, the two are the same car. The same engine. The same drive train. The same interior trim. Yet the X4 M is tailored towards a different audience, with different competition.

To start with the elephant in the room. To my eyes, the BMW X4 M is not a particularly pretty car. Cars in this segment rarely are. Based upon an SUV but with the style of a Coupe. The X4 M is distinguished by its sloping roof. In practical terms, this affects external visibility with the narrow rear window. It also reduces the practicality somewhat; although not necessarily on paper as the X4 swallows 525 litres with the rear seats up, the X3 is rated to 550 litres. The word zeitgeist has been thrown around.

It is a competitive segment though. Plenty of people find X4 perfect for their needs. It has room for the family and the styling can hardly be described as boring. It has competition too, most notably in the form of the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 Coupe. Does an injection of performance do anything for it? This is the question we set out to answer.

For the official launch, BMW booked Monticello race track in upstate New York. The circuit features a huge variety of corners. Perfect for testing the limits of the X4 M. Of course, the X4 M will rarely venture onto the race track, most owners will use it inner-city or for long distance touring. Yet, a race track gives us the full opportunity to experience the handling capabilities at the limit and in a safe environment.

First, we had to get there. A 1 hour 30 minute drive through a mixture of interstates and back roads. Perfect for assessing the X4 M’s likely habitat. The X4 M is fully capable of a mundane 65 mph (or thereabouts…) cruise, however, it is on the back roads that it starts to come alive.

The package revolves around the engine. It is an all-new S58 unit, built to replace BMW M’s outgoing S55 unit. Needless to say, it feels superb. BMW rarely have problems in that area. It is free-revving, responsive and worthy of the BMW M badge. None of the components is carried across from the older generation model, it is genuinely all-new. The similarities with the B58 engine, found in non-BMW M models, are less than 10% too.

The S58 is truly state of the art. Parts are built using 3D printing. It gets larger radiators, a new oil cooler, 150 bar of additional injection pressure and a new air intake system. Its development has been pushed, in part, by the new WLTP standards which forced the withdrawal of the previous BMW M3 from the market. Eventually, this same power unit will power the new generation of BMW M models including the new M3 and M4. For now, it does a fantastic job in the X4.

Our time with the BMW X4 M begins with a quick blast to the race track. Jumping into the driver’s seat confirms that there is very little difference to the X3 M. Leather surfaces and carbon fibre trim, coupled with generous BMW M badges. Rear visibility is the only noticeable compromise.

A touch of the starter button, dash mounted and lifted from the new BMW M5, reveals a screen graphic confirm that you are indeed behind the wheel an X4 M. On the highway, in maximum efficiency settings, the X4 M rides very well. The efficiency setting for the drive train seems a little highly strung, reluctantly shifting from lower gears at a fairly lofty 3,000 rpm, refusing to settle in top gear until you have reached cruising speed and the terrain is completely flat. It gets a 17.2-gallon fuel tank which predicts a range of around 330 miles when you set off with a full gas tank.

On country lanes, the X4 M handles very well indeed. Here, it makes sense to shift the settings into the intermediate sport’s settings. You have two options here. Either you can program the settings individually through the buttons on the central transmission tunnel. Alternatively, you can pre-program the M1 and M2 buttons on the steering wheel which remembers your settings. Two taps and the mode is confirmed.

With sports suspension, sports transmission and sport steering settings engaged, the odd-ball M car comes alive. The pace is addictive, the grip endless and the drive relentless. There is less showboating too. Whereas the Mercedes-AMG models crackle and pop, the X4 M sounds more genuine. Of course, there’s only so much performance to be extracted from 510 hp on public roads.

At the track, we change into an identical BMW X4 M. After a quick briefing we head out to the track for a blast of 7 quick laps. The long straights allow top speeds in the region of 140 mph. The corners reveal handling the surprising grip limits. Only only a few occasions did we feel any grip lost. A glance in the rear mirror confirms that a fellow journalist was able to achieve a drift or two out of the corners. Impressive for a four-wheel drive, 2,081 kg SUV!

BMW X4 M Competition Interior

On paper, the X4 M is capable of a 4.1 second 100 km/h sprint. Figures that would be astounding in a sports car, let alone an SUV of the X4’s proportions. To put those figures into perspective, the BMW i8 hits the same speed in 4.4 seconds!

There is no doubt that the BMW X4 M is worth of the BMW M badge it carries. I mention some criticisms of the iDrive system in my BMW X3 review. Those same criticisms are identical within the X4 M too. My suspicion is that the longer you spend behind the wheel, the easier it will become too navigate. Having owned and run Volkswagen Group cars for my entire life, iDrive clearly takes some getting used to.

The competition is limited to the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 Coupe and the new Porsche Cayenne Coupe Turbo. There is nothing else quite like these three SUV’s. My concluding remarks? The X4 M is certainly worthy of the BMW M badge. It sits within a fine niche though. Ultimately whether you pick it over the competition depends on your brand loyalties.

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bmw-x4-m-competition-reviewThe BMW X4 M provides good competition for the growing performance SUV segment. Whether it diverts sales from the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 Coupe and the Porsche Cayenne Coupe Turbo will likely depend on brand loyalty. A thoroughly entertaining prospect with 'grown-up' appeal.



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