The 2020 BMW X3 M is the best of two worlds. It’s a premium compact crossover with plenty of space for families and whatever things they need to bring with them, and it’s a high-performance vehicle with remarkable power and all the hardware necessary to contain and exploit such muscle.
Although there’s a letter M attached to another X3, the 355-horsepower M40i, the 2020 X3 M represents the first time BMW‘s go-faster division has really gone to work on this model. It has taken what is one of the company’s top-selling products, endowed it with a fantastic turbocharged inline-6 engine, transformed the suspension, strengthened the brakes, improved aerodynamics, made sure the lubrication systems can function under high cornering forces and installed extra cooling equipment.
The result is not merely a marketing ploy or a halo car that shines a light of desirability on the X3 range as a whole. That wasn’t necessary.
nstead, BMW did it because it could. Because in an age of partial autonomy, disconnection and distraction, exciting machines can and should still exist. And technology has progressed to where a crossover/SUV-style vehicle can be made to feel and behave like something smaller, lighter and lower. Yet it still has the typical raised driving position and usefulness.
The new X3 M is a particular flavor, a certain color. But for those driving enthusiasts who need (or want) to augment their thrills with real-world functionality, it could be ideal.
What’s New for 2020?
This M version of the X3 premium compact crossover is totally new. The X3 is now in its third generation, which debuted for the 2018 model year. See the 2020 BMW X3 M models for sale near you
What We Like
- The soul of a sports car
- The body of a crossover
What We Don’t
- No Android Auto smartphone integration
Propelling both iterations of the X3 M is a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6. It starts out making 473 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque. In the Competition version, hp is boosted to 503 hp, while torque remains the same.
The engine is linked to an 8-speed automatic transmission, providing steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles that enable the driver to become more involved whenever the mood or the moment arises, plus a launch control. All-wheel drive is standard.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption for both outputs at 14 miles per gallon in the city, 19 mpg on the highway and 16 mpg in combined driving.
Standard Features and Options
The 2020 BMW X3 M is available in regular and Competition models.
The 2020 X3 M ($70,895) comes with 20-in alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights with automatic high beams, heated side mirrors, roof rails, rain-sensing wipers, forward collision mitigation with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, quad exhaust tailpipes, M-tuned adaptive suspension, M Compound brakes, an M Sport differential, keyless entry/ignition, heated/14-way power-adjustable front seats with driver’s-side memory settings, leather upholstery, dual zone automatic climate control, self-dimming rearview and driver’s-side mirrors, a 12.3-in digital driver information display, selectable driving modes, ambient LED cabin lighting, 40/20/40 split/fold rear seats, a powered tailgate with hands-free operation, front/rear parking sensors, a 10.25-in infotainment touchscreen, navigation with real-time traffic updates, Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, Bluetooth phone/audio, satellite/HD radio, two USB ports, 20GB of audio file storage, and a 16-speaker/600-watt Harman Kardon surround-sound system.
The X3 M Competition ($77,895) is the more powerful variant, adding an M Sport exhaust system, 21-in alloy wheels and M Sport front seats, which are optional in the regular X3 M.
An Executive package makes X3 M life more luxurious with a self-parking function for parallel and perpendicular spaces, Wi-Fi, wireless charging, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, gesture control for the infotainment system, rear side window sunshades and a panoramic moonroof.
A Driving Assistance Plus package brings adaptive cruise control with stop/go and extended collision mitigation. Other options include ventilated front seats and an M Driver’s package, which consists of a day’s instruction in high-performance driving at one of BMW’s selected tracks and a raised top speed of 173 miles per hour in the X3 M or 177 mph in the Competition version.
As well as being a machine with tremendous driver appeal, the X3 M is no less practical than its humbler stablemates. Having 28.7 cu ft of luggage space behind the rear seats and a maximum cargo area of 62.7 cu ft is impressive for the premium compact crossover class.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not crash-tested any X3 variant yet. However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has put the “normal” X3 through its program and named it a Top Safety Pick Plus after it took top scores in every major category.
Bear in mind that the X3 M has stronger brakes and several driver assistance features as standard.
Behind the Wheel
Under the X3 M Competition’s hood is the most powerful and strongest production version of a BMW turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6. Although torque (the rate of thrust) is the same in both models, the Competition extends the engine speed range where maximum torque is available — up to 5,950 rpm, compared to 5,600 rpm.
It makes the engine more responsive in the upper reaches of the rev range, similar to a high-revving naturally aspirated engine. This may not be so apparent on public roads, but it’s cool knowing it’s there.
Sprinting from a standstill to 60 mph takes just four seconds for the 503-hp Competition, with its 473-hp sibling coming in only 0.1 seconds behind. These are claimed figures, and BMW tends to be conservative in such matters.
The luxurious atmosphere of the cabin might lead some to anticipate a similarly cushioned ride, but this is BMW’s sportiest X3. The standard adaptive suspension becomes firmer by degrees as the driver clicks thorough the driving modes, but it starts out tauter than a regular X3.
Other Cars to Consider
2020 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio — Wonderful to drive and look at, with 505 hp under the hood. More expensive than the X3 M Competition though.
2020 Jaguar F-Pace SVR — Develops an awesome 550 hp and costs not much more than the X3 M Competition. Definitely worth putting on the short list.
2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 SUV — Goes up against the non-Competition X3 M with 469 hp and a little more torque. Considering this high-performance SUV notion is still a niche, there are some great contenders, with the GLC 63 being one of them.
2020 Porsche Macan Turbo — Not as powerful with 434 hp and appreciably more expensive, but Porsche’s renowned dynamics make this so tempting. The Macan has an arguably beautiful interior as well.
Used BMW X5 M — More space and more muscle thanks to a glorious 567-hp V8. We’ve seen some low-mileage examples offered for much less than a new X3 M. Check out BMW’s certified pre-owned (CPO) program.
Adding a panoramic roof with a powered sunshade increases weight and raises the vehicle’s center of gravity, neither of which is desirable in an enthusiast’s book. And we’re assuming enthusiasts are the kind of people who are serious about buying a new X3 M.
Chances are good that people who love driving are also less likely to use adaptive cruise control, so perhaps pass on that option too.
The same goes for the M Driver’s package. Education and experience are always good, but a potential customer might have plenty under their belt already. And a raised top speed is pointless anywhere but on a track with a long straight. Find a BMW X3 M for sale