BMW X3 M Competition — A muscled-up small SUV photo

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(January 9, 2022) With electrification rapidly taking over our driving life, this might be the best time to enjoy massive horsepower and insane performance from an internal combustion engine. It may never get any better — as long as you have the cash to explore the world of monster ICE performance. And our current example is not only breathtakingly fast, but it offers a large dose of practicality.

It's is not a two-seat supercar or a muscled-up wide-body sedan, but a rather spacious compact crossover sport utility vehicle from the performance wizards at BMW. The go-fast Motorsport (M) engineers at the German "Ultimate Driving Machine" company should be commended for creating a SUV crossover vehicle that not only goes fast, but handles a curving mountain road like its tires were coated with bubble gum.

We are speaking of the 2022 BMW X3 M Competition. It's the perfect vehicle for the dad of a small family who wants over-the-top performance, but needs a family hauler and an occasional grocery-getter or four-adult evening-out transportation. photo

The X3 M Competition is a muscled-up version of the standard X3 offering considerably more power, more high-performance parts and more adrenalin-pumping handling capability. The performance difference between the standard X3 and the X3 M is rather startling. The purchase price difference is also rather daunting.

The standard garden-variety X3 comes with 248-horsepower (xDrive301 and sDrive301) and 382 horsepower (xDrive M40i). That's certainly ample motivation. But move up to one of the two M variants and you enter a world of extreme driving with 473 hp (X3 M) and 503 hp (X3 M Competition).

As for price, the X3 starts at $44,695 for the base engine and $58,795 for the M40i, while the M edition begins at $70,895 and the Competition starts at $77,895.

There's not much new for the X3 and X3 M for the 2022 model year. The biggest difference from the 2021 models is the exterior treatment with a revised grille, new headlamps and taillights, updated front and rear bumpers and tweaked exhaust tips. There are also new wheel designs and the basic X3 can be dressed up with the M Sport appearance package. Also, the plug-in hybrid xDrive30e has been discontinued. Inside, BMW now offers an optional 12.3-inch infotainment screen upgrade over the standard 10.2-inch screen.

The ultimate X3 M Competition brings an incredible 503 horsepower from its twin-turbocharged inline 6-cylinder engine, which is paired with an eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive.  For 2022, torque has been raised by 37 pound-feet to 479. BMW says the added torque lowers the SUV's 0-to-60 time to 3.3 seconds. Mash the gas pedal on the open road — even while cruising at 60 mph — brings an instant adrenalin-pumping response as the little SUV surges past 100 mph before you can utter "what the heck." Other performance numbers include a quarter mile time of 11.6 seconds at 119 mph and passing times from 30 to 50 mph of 2.6 seconds and 50 to 70 of 3.1 seconds.

The standard X3 M (sans the Competition moniker) comes with 473 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque.

Going fast real fast is not the only speed trick the M Competition can do — it can also come down from 60 mph in a seatbelt tensioning 104 feet. As far as cornering grip, the crossover is at the top of charts having been measured a stunning 0.99 g on the skidpad.

While the X3 M Competition is rather docile around town, which is good for the chores of everyday life, mash the pedal even slightly and the car comes to life in a rush of speed. Out on the curving back roads, the M3 Competition is wildly entertaining and can be a rather terrifying experience to the novice unsuspecting driver. Once you've had time to familiarize yourself to the car's capabilities, driving can be an unmitigated joy.

Inside, the controls are relatively straight forward, and a wheel in the center console can direct you to the proper place whether it be for the radio, navigation or setup information. We found the buttons for the climate control a bit too cumbersome to easily operate while driving. The front sport seats are comfortable and hold you in place while visiting a twisting road. We think they will work well for long drives. One of the highlights for us was the excellent Harmon Kardon audio system. And the X3 also has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration.

One thing we found a bit fussy was the gear selector which has a rather unusual shift pattern that we found acceptable once we became aquatinted with it.

Unlike many other M editions in the BMW stable, the rear seats are adult friendly with adequate legroom for all but very tall people. Likewise, cargo space is useable with 28.7 cubic feet of storage behind the second row seats and 62.7 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded down.

On the road the BMW proved quiet, but the suspension is about as harsh as any car we have recently encountered. Before purchasing, you need a test drive over some rough roads to make sure your regular passengers are not too annoyed. We were OK with the jostling, however, knowing it was an acceptable compromise for the vehicle's outstanding handling traits.

Our test X3 M Competition stickered for $82,095 with the $3,650 Executive Package which includes front and rear heated seats, a head-up display, gesture control for the audio system and heated steering wheel.

2022 BMW X3 M Competition


Base price: $70,895; as driven, $82,095
Engine: Twin-turbocharged inline 6 cylinder
Horsepower: 503 @ 7,300 rpm
Torque: 479 pound-feet
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: four wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 112.8 inches
Length: 186.2 inches
Curb weight: 5,510 pounds
Turning circle: 414 feet
Luggage capacity: 28.7 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 62.7 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 17.2 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 15 city, 20 highway, 17 combined
0-60: 3.5 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Mercedes-AMG GLC 63, Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio

The Good
• Breathtakingly fast
• Excellent grip and handling
• SUV practicality

The Bad
• Very stiff ride

The Ugly
• Miserable gas mileage