More is almost always better.
More dessert. More holidays. More love. In the auto industry, the more usually comes down to power and performance, as it does with the 2022 BMW X3 M Competition.
But sometimes more isn’t really better – it’s just, well, more. A bigger yard means more grass to cut. More money means more taxes to pay. In this case, it’s more weight, more fuel consumed, and more expensive.
503 hp is a lot for any vehicle, but it’s an absurd amount for a compact crossover. The twin-turbocharged 3.0L inline six-cylinder is the same variation found in the M4 Competition coupe, replete with its new forged lightweight crankshaft and 3D-printed cylinder head. There’s 479 lb-ft of torque on tap, up 37 from last year, and it’s enough to rocket this X3 to 100 km/h from a standing start in a claimed 3.8 seconds. During this test week, my right shoe always seemed to be unusually heavy, resulting in rocket rides toward the horizon.
From a standstill, there’s the briefest of pauses before the Competition squats on its haunches and takes off like a cartoon character. In the regular drive mode, it’s ferociously quick. Fiddle with the M1 or M2 steering wheel buttons that allow the driver to customize everything from throttle response to steering rate and braking aggressiveness to gear shift speed, however, and the X3 M Competition becomes obscenely quicker and louder. Before stepping out to pass, it’s best to advise passengers to hold on tight – but even if you do, the thrust will surely elicit a response from the passengers (either whoops of glee, or admonishment for causing them neck strain).
Driving Feel: 9/10
Slowing for corners won’t relieve the neck strain, since the genuinely track-ready brakes try to pull your head from your shoulders, and pulling your head to the side as the 255-mm front and 265-mm rear tires generate sensational g-loading through curves. The steering is really quick, with subtle inputs resulting in considerable movement, and the eight-speed automatic transmission snaps off lightning-quick shifts yet can be a smooth operator when not being caned wildly.
There’s a standard full-time all-wheel drive system, albeit with a rear-drive bias, and a proper M limited slip differential. It’s all track-worthy stuff, and while this X3 is remarkably composed and capable of incredible handling feats, it’s still possible to switch off the driver aides and simply overpower the tires into various degrees of hooliganism. A Porsche Macan or even an Alfa Romeo Stelvio may offer a more finesse, but the X3 M Competition gets the job done, too, but with the option of using brute force to do it. Subtle it is not.
Fuel Economy: 6/10
At 15.7 L/100 km in the city, the X3 M Competition can be rather thirsty. Other drivers with heavy feet may find (as I did) that repeated acceleration runs will do no favours for the efficiency; but with a test week that resulted in more time spent on the highway than in the city, it was easy to match or even exceed the official combined rating of 13.9 L/100 km. In fact, playing nice on the highway had the trip computer boasting an average below 11.0 L/100 km. Naturally, a performance engine like this begs for premium-grade gas.
Where some of the X3’s competitors offer sleeker, swoopy styling, this compact BMW very much casts a traditional SUV profile. The tall greenhouse and somewhat boxy shape make for a more useful interior, so there are no complaints here. Because the X3 M Competition’s tamer sibling, the X3 M40i, already wears big wheels, body cladding, and blacked out trim, it takes a keen eye to spot the upgrades here.
Up front, the chin spoiler digs deeper, and in the back, there are four tailpipes instead of two sticking out. My tester’s snowflake-like 21-inch wheels are exclusive to the model, and they happen to be some of the most beautiful wheels from BMW in years.
Being the 50th anniversary of BMW’s M division, my tester wore commemorative roundel badges front and rear with additional accent colours. But it’s the distinctive urban green paint that really made it stand out and attract attention.
Inside, it’s familiar for anyone used to contemporary BMWs. The two-tone leather treatment looks sharp, and BMW’s consistent use of black buttons and instrument panel has worked well for them for years, and continues to look good today.
User Friendliness: 8/10
2022’s updates represent a mid-cycle refresh for the X3 as a whole, so the overall control layout is similar to last year’s model. Of significance, the central touchscreen has grown to 12.3 inches, matching the size of the driver’s digital cockpit display. There’s a head-up display, too, though it’s rendered mostly invisible by polarized glasses. BMW’s latest infotainment system works well with lag-free inputs, crisp display graphics, and sensible menu navigation.
There’s wireless charging and connectivity for smartphones, and inputs for climate control and oft-used functions are all managed by buttons. In this age of all-glass touch control panels, there’s even a volume knob (albeit a small one).
The driving position allows a commanding view – one of the perks of an SUV, even a sporty one over a traditional sport sedan or wagon – and rear three-quarter views are also decent.
The tall greenhouse adds to its comfort, helping the cabin freel bright and airy, whether in the front or rear seats (all heated, of course). Typically, BMW’s seats are on the firm side, and the X3 M Competition’s thrones are no different. Still, they’re highly adjustable and proved to be quite comfortable during testing, suiting a wide range of body shapes and sizes. And while the aggressive bolstering up front is helpful for keeping occupants in place during high-speed manoeuvres, they can be widened with a push of a button for those who find them restrictive.
Road and wind noise are both very well suppressed, and engine noise can be made louder or softer, depending on the drive mode employed, but it’s never over the top. Ride quality, too, is decidedly sporty, even in the tamest settings. And while road imperfections are clearly transmitted to the cabin, all but the nastiest bumps have the harshness taken out of them.
As the top of the X3 lineup, the M Competition comes equipped with most of the luxury accoutrements expected these days, including all the performance elements, fancy wheels, and body kit. Still, components like ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and sun shades, as well as the head-up display, are all optional. At least the leather finishes, excellent sound system, and panoramic sunroof are all standard fare.
The BMW X3 has earned a five-star rating from the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and good crash results from the not-for-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Fitted with the optional Advanced Driver Assistance package, it includes traffic jam assistance, lane-keeping, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control.
With the ability to comfortably accommodate four passengers – and a fifth in a pinch – along with 813 L of luggage space (1,776 L with the rear seats folded flat), the X3 M Competition offers incredible performance along with the same daily usability and functionality as its less sporty X3 siblings.
Given its starting price of $93,700, the X3 M Competition is a pricey machine; but with the performance capabilities it comes with, the driving experience is worth the price of admission. Add in some of the luxury essentials and it’s easy to crest the $100,000 mark, as this tester did, ringing in at $109,000 before tax. That’s a significant amount of money, though it isn’t out of line with a similarly specced Porsche Macan GTS that has nowhere near the power of the X3 M Competition. Similarly, an Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio commands a starting price of $101,000.
Ultimately, the machine that most diminishes the X3 M Competition’s value is its own X3 M40i sibling. Starting nearly $30,000 cheaper, the M40i offers sizzling performance in its own right that’s sure to be more than enough for most buyers, and even when extensively optioned up it still comes in cheaper than the starting price of this version.
The X3 M40i is a sensationally good machine. The level of luxury, performance, and quality it offers – along with impressive usability – make it a remarkable jack-of-all-trades machine and arguably one of the best models the marque currently produces. Adding more power and performance should make it even better; and it does, with this track-ready 2023 BMW X3 M Competition. But it’s much costlier, rides stiffer, and consumes a bunch more fuel, making it a rare breed that should be reserved for anyone who simply needs to have the nastiest, most unhinged compact luxury crossover available today. More can be better, just make sure you really want it.
|Engine Cylinders||Twin turbo I6|
|Peak Horsepower||503 hp|
|Peak Torque||479 lb-ft|
|Fuel Economy||15.7 / 11.7 / 13.9 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||813 / 1,776 L seats down/up|
|Model Tested||2022 BMW X3 M Competition|
|Price as Tested||$109,280|
$13,000 – Premium Package, $4,500; Advanced Driver Assistance Package, $2,000; M Compound Brakes, Black, $750; Shadowline Headlights, $500; Carbon Fibre Trim, $850; Urban Green paint, $3,900; two-tone merino leather interior, $500