Class: Premium Compact SUV
Miles driven: 340
Fuel used: 21.6 gallons
|CG Report Card
|Room and Comfort
|Power and Performance
|Fit and Finish
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.
|Big & Tall Comfort
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.
Real-world fuel economy: 15.7 mpg
Driving mix: 70% city, 25% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 14/19/16 (city, highway, combined)
Fuel type: Premium gas required
Base price: $76,900 (not including $995 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: Donington Grey Metallic paint ($550), Executive Package ($3900), front ventilated seats ($350)
Price as tested: $82,695
The great: Ferocious acceleration; tenacious handling
The good: High-class interior; good passenger and cargo versatility
The not so good: Stiff ride; thirsty for premium gasoline; some tedious infotainment controls
Driving the 503-horsepower BMW X3 M Competition premium-compact SUV can make you feel like a kid again. That’s because so much customization of powerteam and chassis behavior is left up to the driver that you’ll be pushing button after button and asking, “What does this do? What does this do? What does this do?”
A trio of console buttons governs engine output, damping firmness, and steering resistance, each with three independently obtained performance levels. Full power, softest ride, and crispest steering? You can do that—or some other mix. The Drivelogic button atop the gearshift lever ramps up the speed and force of shifts from the 8-speed automatic transmission. Little red “M1” and “M2” mode buttons atop the steering-wheel hub enable or deactivate the presets, M Sport exhaust function, and stability control.
The M Competition and its 473-horsepower companion labelled simply M are 2020 additions to the X3 product line, which was redesigned for 2018. Starting price for the Competition—with delivery—is $77,895, a jump of $7000 over the base M. In addition to the extra muscle, that upcharge buys the backpressure-reducing M Sport exhaust with black-chrome tips; 21-inch V-spoke alloy wheels; black-trim grille surrounds, fender vents, and mirror caps; and specific front seats with a single-piece molded back panel, power side bolsters, and an illuminated “M” logo in the headrests. With the $3900 Executive Package, Donington Grey Metallic premium paint, and ventilated front seats thrown in, the total for Consumer Guide’s test truck reached $82,695—not exactly kid stuff.
Even if a driver chooses not to wield all the levers of power, the M Competition is eye-openingly quick thanks to its herd of horses and maximum 442 lb-ft of torque in session from 2600 to 5950 rpm. Start pushing all the right buttons and the trans delivers snap shifts between gear ranges that are held longer to let power build for performance that’s even more vivid, with exhaust snarl to match. (The manufacturer claims a 0-to-60-mph time of four seconds flat.)
At 15.8 mpg for his turn in the test vehicle, this reviewer came pretty close to the EPA combined-mileage estimate of 16 mpg. That’s not too bad considering that 74 percent of his 182.6 test miles were covered in city-type driving. In the big picture, though, the M Competition is no sipper: Federal projections are just 14 and 19 mpg in city and highway driving, respectively.
Ride is firm, even with the adaptive suspension set for “Comfort.” Advancing damper and steering resistance up through “Sport” and “Sport+” palpably improves control of body motions (at some sacrifice of ride comfort) and handling. With 50.1 percent of vehicle weight up front and 49.9 percent in back, the X3 M Competition is about as balanced as most sports cars would hope to be. Specially tuned all-wheel drive, an active differential, and standard launch control are all included to sharpen dynamic performance and traction. The blue-caliper M Sport disc brakes, with 4-piston grip in front, hold fast right away.
In those moments when the M Comp is being asked to live up to its potential, front-seat passengers are securely cupped in the high-back sport seats. Firm but supportive, they have 14-way power adjustment and 4-way lumbar support, plus a memory function for the driver’s seat. Alcantara suede-like fabric is applied to inner portions of the cushions and seat-back wings when the combination of Black and yellowy Midrand Beige leather is selected, as it was on CG’s test vehicle. The light-up logo in the headrests may be a gimmick, but it’s a neat one nonetheless. Front-seat space will satisfy the majority of folks who ride there, and there is nice rear-seat room for a compact SUV, though just two adults can reasonably be accommodated on the adjustable-back seats. Except for big B-pillars that impede the view to the side, driver vision is fairly good.
Clear—and thorough—driving controls pop up on a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Audio, navigation, and other infotainment functions display on a 10.25-inch touchscreen, but manipulation of these features still rests with the sometimes-frustrating iDrive central controller. A Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system with satellite radio; Apple CarPlay smartphone compatibility; navigation; and Active Driving Assistant—a suite of electronic safety minders like lane-departure warning, frontal collision warning, and more are standard. So is dual-zone climate control, which uses dials to select temperature levels and buttons to address other needs on its own panel. There are steering-wheel paddles for when drivers want to shift gears for themselves, but for the rest of the time there’s the occasionally confounding console lever that relies on sideways pulls and pushes, and has a separate “park” button near its base.
Cabin storage consists of a fairly roomy glove box, a smallish console box, and a drawer that pulls out from the dash at the left of the steering column. A covered bin at the front of the console gathers in two cup holders, an optional wireless charger, a USB port, and a 12-volt power point. Rear-seat riders get pop-open cup holders in the central armrest. Big pockets with bottle holders reside in each door.
X3s in general have decent cargo space. The load floor of the M Comp actually sits slightly higher than bumper height, but shouldn’t pose too much of a problem for loading. Rear seats, which are divided in a 40/20/40 split, fold flat. They can be retracted remotely by buttons in the cargo area.
It may seem incomprehensible to some that a utility vehicle could—or should—be focused on speed and handling, but a number of manufacturers have identified a market for such things. By making the X3 M Competition, BMW shows it’s not kidding around.
2020 BMW X3 M Competition