By Sala Masindane
With the demand for SUVs that can match the performance of super saloons having gone up, and BMW have already produced the X5 and X6, it was only a matter of time before we saw a X3 M that can do the zero to 100 km/h sprints in just under 4.1 secs. Recently we spent time with the X3 M Competition and by the looks of things, the trend of performance SUVs is only beginning and quite frankly far from over.
This is the first time the X3 has received the full attention of BMW’s M Division. The X3 M Competition stands out with exterior features that include M-specific BMW kidney grille with black double bars, three dimensional contouring for front apron, BMW’s LED headlights, air vents with a track-ready cooling system, M gills in the front side panels and aerodynamically optimized exterior mirrors finished in gloss black. That’s not all, the M treatment continues at the rear with an M bumper and M sport exhaust with gloss black tailpipes. The M Competition badges on the tailgate do look like a bit an afterthought or an aftermarket update. Something more upmarket would have been more appropriate. The X3 M Competition rides on 21-inch M- specific alloy wheels with M brakes to assist with halting the quick and large SUV.
Inside buyers can look forward to a standard head-up display, M-specific displays in the instrument cluster, M-specific steering, M leather steering with red M1/M2 button and gear shift paddles, M gear selector lever, M multifunction seats with integrated head restraints and M-specific hexagonal quilting. A 10.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system is standard, it has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. The smartphone wireless charging was also featured in our test unit. The infotainment is not the latest on offer from BMW so we know it could be better. That said, it still matches today’s trends. In terms of practicality, its high roof line ensures that taller adults will have no problems with head room, while leg room is decent too. The door bins are sizable across the front and the rear in X3 M Competition, while it maintains a similar boot space of 550-litres as the rest of the X3 range. That means larger families will still have space for those road trips to the coast.
Engine and drive
The X3 M Competition is powered by a new 3.0-litre, straight-six twin-turbocharged engine with 375 kW and 600 Nm. Power is directed to all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission. Acceleration from zero to 100 km/h is claimed at 4.1 seconds. Top speed is 280 km/h if you select the optional Drivers Package. If you are a self-confessed M car fanatic, you will probably have the 411 already and you will know that the X3 M’s Competition has a true M engine. However, and a little disappoint, the X3’s engine is the least savage. It doesn’t have the bombastic soundtrack of the M4, nor does it offer quite the alert throttle response of the M5. The X3 M Competition is no slouch though. Pulling from low in the rev range, its refined six-cylinder howl is anything but unpleasant. The eight-speed automatic gearbox fitted to the X3 M Competition does hesitate very slightly when setting off, but once on the move, it shuffles gears almost perfectly even when in its Efficiency mode. Toggle the car to Sport mode or execute launch control, the car will play in the claimed 0-100 km/h sprint in 4.1 seconds from a standstill, which is in line with most of its competitors. The X4 M might have a standard four-wheel drive system and be not a rear-wheel drive BMW but flick the beast to Sport mode, the whole character of the car changes and ensures you are ready to play on the hooligan side of life.
The slight let down is that the stiffness and suspension will be felt on rougher roads even when on Efficiency or Comfort Mode. This may prove to be slightly challenging when trying to sell this one as the next perfect family car to your spouse.
The BMW X3 M Competition is priced from R1,510,686.
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