M Performance for the family

As I drove the 2022 BMW X4 M Competition ($81,595 MSRP) north on the 330 toward Big Bear Lake, I felt an overwhelming sense of conflict. It was as if my brain wouldn’t accept that I was comfortably carving my way up the mountain road, enjoying every cambered turn, but doing so in a high-waisted crossover. Like any sporty crossover, the X4 M is compromised. However, there is no denying that BMW’s fastest X model ever offers incredible performance.

The motor

Even in its most basic form, the X4 M’s engine produces 473 horsepower and 457 pound-feet of torque and is paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission and xDrive all-wheel drive. Splurge on the $7,000 competition package and you get a total of 503 horses and 479 ft-lbs of torque.

Thanks to the turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six powerplant derived from the M3/M4 and a lighter crankshaft to boost torque stats, the X4 M Competition now has a 0-60mph time of 3.9 seconds. An impressive feat considering the engine has to shift 4,555 lbs from a standing start. If you keep your right foot on the accelerator, the X4 M Competition will continue with a limited top speed of 177 mph.

My time in the X4 M was limited to stretches of California highway and a handful of mountain roads, so I never went anywhere near the V-max. As a consolation, I got acquainted with the ample torque, which peaks at a low 2,750 rpm and stays relatively flat from there.

I was never looking for top-end power when accelerating out of slow corners. Maximum horsepower sits at 6,250rpm (not far from the 7,200rpm redline), but I’ve never felt the need to go that high, with all the usable boost available at more reasonable engine speeds.

In the driver’s seat

At first glance, the X4 M’s interior leans more towards the luxury SUV side of the spectrum than a track-focused four-door. Swaths of brown leather and the Live Cockpit Professional 3D digital display inherited from the M8 greet you as soon as you open the door. It is clear that the engineers of the M Division could not help it.

As with all modern M vehicles, the X4 M Competition lets you customize and fine-tune almost every aspect of the driving experience. Engine response, steering weight, suspension stiffness and exhaust note are all adjustable, as if BMW couldn’t decide what kind of car to build, leaving the owner the burden of choice.

It’s a little overwhelming and overly complicated at first, but once you’ve found your preferred settings, you can save them and easily access that particular profile via one of the red ‘M Mode’ buttons on the steering wheel. There are two buttons that allow you to save two completely different driving styles. I found it useful to be able to save one profile with all aspects almost exclusively on the sportiest setting, while the second profile was tuned to the softer, more passive settings.

On road

While staying in the outpost and cruising around town in Big Bear Lake traffic, the X4 M rides a little too stiff on even the slackest of settings. To maximize cornering speeds and lateral load capacities, M Division engineers overtuned the dampers and added additional bracing to the strut towers. Add 21-inch wheels and low-profile tires with rock-solid sidewalls, and you’ll quickly develop a phobia for potholes.

If the quality of the asphalt is right and the road remains winding, as is the case on Route 330 towards Big Bear Lake, the too-tight chassis becomes a supporting character. Surprisingly planted, the X4 M hides its high center of gravity well while connecting one corner to the next. BMW’s adaptive steering felt numb at times, but it was always direct and responsive.

Taming the torque and horsepower is BMW’s full-time M xDrive all-wheel-drive system, which can also be tuned to your liking to a degree. Torque is constantly shared and shifted between the front and rear tires, and in 4WD Sport mode there is power distribution to the rear wheels. From there, the M Active Differential splits torque between the two rear wheels to increase rear-wheel drive attitude while maintaining AWD control.

Put simply, the X4 M Competition defies all expectations. Even with the low, fastback coupe styling, there’s no escaping the awkward crossover vibes. How BMW’s engineers managed to get a 4,555-pound compact SUV to rush in and out of corners at a respectable pace is incredible. Equip the X4 M with the Competition Pack and keep the stat sheet next to the M3/M4 and it’s even more impressive. Even with the extra weight, the X4 M keeps the sports car flagship honest.

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