BMW X4M Competition — Full-time attack mode

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

With electrification threatening to take over our driving life in the coming years, this might be the best time ever to enjoy massive horsepower and insane performance from internal combustion engines. It may never get any better — as long as you have the cash to explore the world of monster performance.

Our current example is not a two-seat supercar or a muscled-up wide-body sedan, but a funky looking 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 high-riding vehicle that not only goes fast, but handles a curving mountain road like its tires were coated with bubble gum.

What we have is the 2020 BMW X4M Competition. The X4 is a more sporting and stylish alternative to its X3 platform mate with a sleeker, more coupe-like profile. It's also slightly wider, longer and shorter in height than the X3. For 2019, the standard X4 came with a choice of two engines, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making 248 horsepower and a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six making 355 horsepower.

Entering the marketplace for the 2020 model year is the X4M and the X4M Competition. The X4M makes 473 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque from a twin-turbo inline 6-cylinder engine. The X4M Competition bumps up the horsepower to 503. Both are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

This turns the 4,539-pound crossover into an off-the-line beast capable of a 0-to-60 run in a startling fast 3.3 seconds with a quarter mile time of 11.6 seconds at 119 mph, according to testing from a leading automotive magazine. We must take their word for those impressive figures, because we only had public roads to do our testing and we try to be reasonably responsible.

We did discover the eye-popping cornering and handling prowess of the X4M Competition on our usual stretch of relatively deserted back-road blacktop. The standard all-wheel drive system keeps power at the rear wheels, routing it partially to the front only when the vehicle needs extra grip — and there is enormous grip. This occurs as the Active M Differential transfers power to the wheel with the most traction for additional stability. The X4M has been upgraded from the garden-variety X4 with other suspension improvements including unique anti-roll bars, and adaptive dampers which give the driver the option to switch between several drive modes from comfort to aggressive.

After some experimentation we discovered Sport+ was simply too aggressive. The Sport setting hit the sweet spot for our spirited driving. For most other driving, the Comfort mode offered the best compromise.

Inside, the X4M Competition gets all the equipment available on the X4 plus such upgrades as M Sport seats that offer outstanding lateral support as well as vented leather upholstery in a variety of blacks and grays with orange trim, and two programmable buttons on the steering wheel that allow the driver store to their favorite performance settings including the exhaust sound (which is exhilarating),

Several advanced safety features that are optional on the X4 come as standard equipment on the M vehicles such as forward collision warning, front and rear parking sensors, pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking. One feature that should be standard on every car sold in America — blindspot warning — is an option.

When you opt for the X4 it's a styling choice and you do make some sacrifices. Cargo space is cut down to 18.5 cubic feet behind the seats and 50.5 cubic feet with rear-seats folded (which seems reasonable), rear-seat passengers must duck to avoid hitting their noggins on the sloping roof when entering and exiting, and rearward visibility is hampered. We found there's still adequate legroom in back for average-sized people.

The cash outlay for the M models over the standard X4 must also be a consideration. The standard M40i (which we also drove) with its 355 horsepower is a performance machine in its own right starting at $61,445, and with a handful (eight) of desirable options the bottom line came in at $74,520. The X4M starts nearly $13,000 higher at $74,395 including destination charge. The X4M Competition begins at $81,395 including the $995 destination charge.

Our X4M Competition with the Driver Assistance Plus Package ($1,700) that includes active cruise control and extended collision mitigation; the Executive Package ($2,500) that includes heated front and rear seats, head-up display, wireless charging, gesture control for the audio system, and parking assistant; and M Carbon Exterior Package ($4,100) carried a bottom line of $89,695.

Base price: $81,395; as driven, $89,695
Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged inline 6
Horsepower: 505 @ 5,950 rpm
Torque: 442 foot-pounds @ 2,600 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 112.8 inches
Length: 187.5 inches
Curb weight: 4,590 pounds
Turning circle: 41.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 18.5 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 50.5 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 17.2 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 14 city, 19 highway, 16 combined
0-60: 3.3 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, Mercedes AMG GLC63 S

The Good
• Incredible performance
• Loaded with safety features
• Outstanding front seats
• Unique styling

The Bad
• Small cargo space for a crossover

The Ugly
• Rear headroom a bit tight