BMW’s M performance-car division adds two new SUV models to its burgeoning lineup in the form of the X3M and X4M.
Slated for North American delivery in July following a planned public debut at the Shanghai auto show in April, they are among seven new dedicated M models set to be unveiled in 2019, with the M8 Coupe, M8 Cabriolet and M8 GranCoupe as well as the third-generation X5M and X6M all set to follow by year’s end.
“The decision to produce the X3M and X4M was logical. We know how to do a fast and sporting SUV. Our philosophy from the start was to deliver an M3 and M4 driving experience, but with the added assurance of four-wheel drive and a slightly higher seating position,” says Lars Beulke, BMW M product manager.
Following the strategy taken with other recent new M models, the X3M and X4M will be sold in both standard and Competition guises. Together, they take aim at the Mercedes-Benz GLC63 4Matic+ and Porsche Macan Turbo with a newly developed twin-turbocharged 3.0L gasoline engine that goes under the internal codename S58.
Based on the B58 engine used by the X3 M40i and X4 M40i, the inline 6-cyl. unit delivers 473 hp and 442 lb.-ft. (600 Nm) of torque in standard X3M and X4M models and 503 hp and 442 lb.-ft. in the X3M Competition and X4M Competition, the latter of which receive an M-Sport exhaust for more distinctive aural qualities.
This provides the top-of-the-line X3M and X4M with the same power output as the GLC63S 4Matic+ and 69 hp more than the Macan Turbo with an optional Performance Package.
Power is channeled to all four wheels via a standard 8-speed torque-converter-equipped, ZF-produced automatic gearbox featuring BMW M division’s M Steptronic and Drivelogic software package as well as a variable M xDrive all-wheel-drive system with an electronically controlled rear differential capable of varying the amount of drive sent to each rear wheel.
Unlike the similar arrangement used by the M5, though, the variable M xDrive AWD system used by the X3M and X4M models does not support a pure rear-wheel-drive mode.
Instead, BMW M says it has been tuned to deliver maximum on-road grip and traction, with the standard X3M and X4M receiving standard 20-in. wheels and X3M Competition and X4M Competition fitted with 21-in. rims.
The standard X3 and X4’s MacPherson strut (front) and multi-link (rear) suspension, which boasts adaptive damping control, has been heavily reworked for BMW M’s latest models, as has the variable-ratio steering system, which is described as being similar in set-up to that used by the M5, and the brakes, which use 15.6-in. (40-cm) steel discs and four-pot calipers up front and 14.6-in. (37-cm) steel discs with floating calipers at the rear.
Beulke says a significant amount of engineering was focused on stiffening the front-end structure of the standard X3 and X4 to provide the new M models with agility and steering precision. To this end, the X3M and X4M receive a sturdy strut brace across the front suspension towers and additional bracing below the engine.
The quickest of BMW M division’s new midsize SUV performance models, the 4,343-lb. (1,972-kg) X4M Competition is claimed to accelerate from 0-62 mph (100 km/h) in 4.1 seconds and reach an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph (250 km/h). An optional M Driver’s package allows buyers to raise top speed to 177 mph (285 km/h).
This indicates it delivers faster 0-62 mph acceleration than the standard 444-hp manual-gearbox-equipped M4 Competition, which weighs 1,003 lbs. (1,615 kg) less than the X4M Competition and uses BMW M’s older S55 engine.
Although they have not been conceived as such, Beulke says the X3M and X4M “do amazingly well off-road. The electronic differential at the rear provides a locking effect that gives them loads of traction on loose surfaces and gravel roads.”
The new S58 engine comes with a series of efficiency functions, including brake energy recuperation. The most economical of the new M models, the 4,343-lb. X3M is rated at 22.4 mpg (10.5 L/100 km) on the European test cycle.
In keeping with their added performance potential, the X3M and X4M receive several traditional BMW M styling changes to differentiate them from standard X3 and X4 models. Included is a heavily structured front bumper with larger cooling ducts and a honeycomb insert, an M-specific grille (left), reworked breather elements behind the front wheel arches, more prominent sills underneath the doors, M-Sport wing mirrors, a larger spoiler element atop the tailgate and a new rear bumper bookmarked by four round tailpipes.
For added effect, the X3M Competition and X4M Competition come with an optional M carbon package with blackened details.
Inside is the latest M-Sport multifunction steering wheel, instruments, gear lever and seats, along with M-specific trim and upholstery.
The X3M and X4M will be produced at BMW’s Spartanburg, SC, factory alongside standard versions of the X3 and X4.
By the end of 2019, the BMW M division lineup is planned to include up to 37 models, some 15 of which are SUVs.