The BMW X3 M Competition is at once quite a rare and special thing, and also about as common as new performance cars come at the moment; it depends on how you’re minded to think about it.
It’s an all-new BMW M car, and as such something to get pretty excited about, since it’s not every year we get one; but it’s also a mid-sized performance SUV – and in that sense one of an increasing number of cars amongst which we seem to be writing about a new arrival every few weeks.
Nonetheless, this is the first full-fat performance version of the X3 mid-sized SUV that the M Division has ever made, and it’s appearing at the same time as its X4 M Competition sister car – the latter on offer to those who prefer their four-wheel drive go-faster utility cars with a plunging roofline and a bit less... well, you know, utility. What a world.
As the X5 M and X6 M have already proven, of course, the BMW M Division doesn’t make hot SUVs quite like so many other purveyors of a performance-car breed that, thanks to the tastes of a great many modern car buyers, has become absolutely vital to fortunes of the companies making them. It took a while to get used to the idea of an outfit like BMW M making hot SUVs at all. But with the launch of the new X3 M and X4 M SUV-cum-coupe, both of which will arrive in the UK this September in higher-powered ‘Competition’ trim only, BMW’s in-house tuner will finish 2019 with as many jacked-up ‘utility vehicles’ in its showroom range as saloons, coupes and convertibles combined.
And while many will surely snipe at the firm for cashing in even further on its credibility with true enthusiasts here, to give the Motorsport Division due credit, it has executed both the X3 M and X4 M with an observance of its own mechanical conventions and classic character type that gives them both clear authenticity as M cars. With powerful straight-six petrol engines, fully retuned and re-specified steel coil suspension systems, uprated braking and upgraded steering systems and actively locking rear differentials, these cars have plenty in common with the saloons and coupes with which BMW M has built its reputation over the past forty years.
That’s why when new M Division boss Markus Flasch says they were intended simply to be a higher-riding, more practical alternatives to the M3 saloon and M4 coupe, you can believe that he means exactly what he says.