However many times you’ve witnessed it, it remains difficult not to be alarmed by what two tonnes of luxury SUV feels like as it catapults its way to 60mph in four seconds flat, and then on to 100mph in a little over nine. As a sensation, it’s certainly extraordinary and not a little absurd.
The X4 M Competition makes it seem all the more of the latter because, just like the hot Stelvio, it has a quite violent electronic launch control that sets it going more like a motorsport special than any normal family car you can think of. Engaging launch control on a car of this size and weight seems like admitting that you’ve lost your grip on rational thinking completely, and you’re out to explore what else life has to offer.
The fact remains, however, that we’ve witnessed several of the X4 M Competition’s established rivals going almost exactly this fast when we’ve benchmarked them over the past two years, and one or two – the GLC 63 S 4Matic+ mostly notably – have been quicker still. So if you take in this car’s mock-coupé roofline and imagine you’re looking at a car with more get-up-and-go than boxier-looking fast 4x4s, you should think again. AMG aside, a Jaguar F-Pace SVR is just as quick to 110mph, and would be quicker still at derestricted autobahn speeds.
The Jaguar and Mercedes-AMG both use forced V8 engines, of course, and compared with sledgehammers like those, you’d hope that BMW M’s all-important new S58 inline six would offer greater delicacy, linearity and precision in its delivery in return for giving up a bit of outright punch.
You won’t be disappointed on those scores. The X4 M has first-rate turbocharged throttle response and pulls with genuinely striking evenness, as well as with true grit and muscularity, as the revs rise. At no point does it wallop you in the back with a sudden swell of boost; rather, it feels as if an inch of extra accelerator travel deployed at 3000rpm is worth almost exactly as much as it is at double that crank speed.
Even so, most testers agreed that the BMW’s engine, well-partnered as it undoubtedly is to BMW’s eight-speed auto ’box, lacks at least some of the blockbusting audible presence of the engines you’ll find in many of its rivals. Some also questioned whether the delicacy and precision of a great BMW Motorsport six is really what fast SUV buyers may be after.