With its catlike reflexes and impressive power figures, the 2023 BMW X3 M feels and drives more like a sports car than an SUV. A twin-turbo inline-six-cylinder engine makes an impressive 473 horsepower and 457 pound-feet of torque in the standard model, but in the X3 M Competition those numbers get bumped up to 503 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. The quad exhaust sings a thunderous tune when you mash the accelerator and send power spinning into all four wheels. Drivers looking for thrills will find that here, not only in the X3 M’s performance but also in its racy exterior styling. Seating room is ample, and there’s a generously sized cargo bay, both carried over from the more pragmatic standard X3. A luxury experience isn’t exactly on the menu here, as the X3 M is notable for its overly firm ride. If you’re seeking a performance SUV with more comfort, we’d suggest taking a peek at rivals such as the Porsche Macan and the Mercedes-AMG GLC-class.
What’s New for 2023?
Changes to the X3 M for the new model year are few and far between. The 2023 BMW retains the formula that has led the X3 M to success in the past. Horsepower and torque numbers remain impressively high, while acceleration times remain impressively low.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
We want the extra power and enhanced equipment that comes with the Competition model. It adds a gloss-black grille and mirror caps and nets a standard sport exhaust system and black 21-inch wheels (versus 20s on the regular M). Its interior upgrades include distinct “M” badging, more supportive front seats, and richer Merino leather. Among the myriad options, we’d also select the Executive and M Driver’s packages. The former adds copious luxuries such as a head-up display, a heated steering wheel, gesture controls, a panoramic sunroof, self-parking assist, and wireless smartphone charging. The latter unlocks a higher top speed (177 mph versus 155) and one day of professional driving lessons.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
This crossover’s twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder is as smooth as it is powerful. The BMW mill has been massaged by the M performance division to make between 473 and 503 horsepower and between 457 and 479 pound-feet of torque. The extra power is reserved for the Competition model, which also adds a standard sport exhaust system and 21-inch wheels. Every X3 M comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission and an all-wheel-drive system that can send 100 percent of the engine’s torque to the back wheels when needed. The 2020 X3 M Competition we tested was absurdly quick and shockingly agile for what it is. It ripped to 60 mph in 3.3 seconds, closed the gap between 50 and 70 mph in 3.1 ticks, and completed the quarter-mile in 11.6 seconds at 119 mph. For context, the BMW M3 sports sedan is slightly slower than the SUV to 60 mph, hitting that mark in 3.5 seconds. The M3 pulls away from the X3 M in the quarter-mile, though. The X3 M also stops from 70 mph in the same 146 feet as that sedan and circles our skidpad with an impressive 0.97 g of grip. The X3 M might be too hardcore for most people to appreciate every day, as its ride is very firm even with the standard adaptive dampers in their softest setting. The thick-rimmed steering wheel transmits a respectable amount of feedback, with the steering never stopping us from enjoying the lower limits of its impressive capabilities.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The X3 M with or without the Competition package is expected to earn 14 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the highway. Those figures fall significantly short of rivals such as the 505-hp Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio (with 17 and 23 mpg, respectively) and the 469-hp Mercedes-AMG GLC63 SUV (16 and 22 mpg). However, the Bimmer performed better in the real world. On our 75-mph highway fuel-economy route, which is part of our extensive testing regimen, the X3 M exceeded the government’s highway rating by 7 mpg (26 mpg total). For comparison, we observed 20 mpg in the GLC63 SUV and 21 in the Stelvio QF, both of which missed their highway ratings by 2 mpg. For more information about the X3 M’s fuel economy, visit the EPA’s website.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The 2023 X3 M shares its updated interior design with the regular X3. The full-blown M version enjoys more standard features and an assortment of exclusive details. The latter mainly consists of “M” badging, red drive-mode buttons on the steering wheel, and aggressively bolstered front seats. The Competition package brings front chairs with even more bolstering. Throughout the cabin, attractive materials show off BMW’s adherence to upscale aesthetics. Along with this crossover’s standard leather upholstery and selectable interior accents, BMW has provided a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, 14-way power front seats, customizable ambient interior lighting, and heated front-seat cushions. Still not swanky enough? Buyers can opt for finer leather and a host of premium options, including a head-up display, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a panoramic sunroof, and side window shades in the rear. There’s plenty of passenger space for all, as well as a generous amount of cargo room. We managed to fit seven carry-on suitcases behind the X3’s rear seat and 20 with the seatbacks folded. Buyers of the mechanically similar X4 M will give up some of that space to that model’s dramatically sloped rear end.
The Car and Driver Difference
Infotainment and Connectivity
Every X3 M comes with a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system which offers myriad control methods. In addition to the touch capability of the screen, BMW provides a physical volume knob on the center stack and controls on the steering wheel. There’s also a rotary controller on the center console surrounded by shortcut buttons. Popular standard features include a 16-speaker Harman/Kardon stereo, built-in navigation, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and charging ports throughout the cabin. Those who want even more bells and whistles can add gesture controls and wireless charging via the comprehensive Executive package.
How to Buy and Maintain a Car
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The compact luxury crossover has an entire suite of standard driver-assistance technology as well as a handful of optional equipment such as self-parking assist. For more information about the X3 M’s crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Key safety features include:
- Standard blind‑spot monitor and rear cross‑traffic alert
- Standard lane‑departure warning
- Available adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
BMW provides a competitive limited warranty and average powertrain protection plan compared with its luxury rivals. While the company’s complimentary maintenance plan is shorter than Jaguar’s, it’s significantly better than what others offer in this class.
- Limited warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for three years or 36,000 miles
2020 BMW X3 M Competition
front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback
PRICE AS TESTED
$84,395 (base price: $77,895)
twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve inline-6, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
183 cu in, 2993 cc
473 or 503 hp @ 7300 rpm
442 lb-ft @ 2600 rpm
Suspension (F/R): strut/multilink
Brakes (F/R): 15.6-in vented, cross-drilled disc/14.6-in vented, cross-drilled disc
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport 4S, F: 255/40R-21 (103Y) ★ R: 265/40R-21 (105Y) ★
Wheelbase: 112.8 in
Length: 186.2 in
Width: 74.7 in
Height: 65.7 in
Passenger volume: 100 cu ft
Cargo volume: 29 cu ft
Curb weight: 4549 lb
Rollout, 1 ft: 0.2 sec
60 mph: 3.3 sec
100 mph: 8.0 sec
150 mph: 21.4 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 4.7 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 2.6 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 3.1 sec
¼-mile: 11.6 sec @ 119 mph
Top speed (governor limited, mfr’s claim): 161 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 146 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.97 g
Observed: 17 mpg
75-mph highway driving: 25 mpg
Highway range: 430 miles
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/city/highway: 16/14/19 mpg
More Features and Specs