BMW X3 M: Exceptional brakes, rev-happy engine, sharp throttle responses


The SUV scoots to 100kph in just 4.5sec, and it relentlessly pulls till its electronically limited top speed of 250kph

BMW’s M division is no stranger to high performance SUVs. Now, for the first time, the X3 has been made available in full-blown M spec. M division has also tuned the X3’s performance and dynamics to further dial up the heat.

With its design, the X3 M can come across as rather inconspicuous and can be passed off as just another BMW SUV. Only a closer look reveals subtle differences with the standard X3. It gets the chrome-surround kidney grille with blacked vertical bars, restyled front and rear bumpers, embellishments on the fenders, sportier side mirrors, quad exhaust tips, a roof spoiler and larger 20-inch alloy wheels. Lurking behind the wheels are massive 395mm discs upfront and 370mm discs at the rear, paired with blue M calipers. Even the black body cladding of the standard car is now in body colour in this M version.

Open the doors and you are greeted by an all-black cabin; the first thing that grabs your attention is the new steering wheel with two red M buttons on it. The gear selector is also new, as are the matte silver panels that replace the gloss black trims on the standard car. The front seats are much sportier, well-contoured and offer better support. Aside from these, however, the cabin remains identical to the standard car, with high-quality materials, a neat user-friendly layout and good all-round visibility. Space at the rear is good too, and so is its large boot that also tucks in a space saver tyre beneath the boot floor.

Its features list is shared with the standard car but with some M-specific features, including an exhaust flap opening-closing button and the option to adjust the weight of the steering, stiffness of the dampers, throttle response and gearshift quickness. The M modes on the steering represent memory options for preset configurations for the suspension, engine, steering, etc.

Specifications

  • Type 2993cc, 6 cyls, twin-turbo petrol
  • Max Power 480hp at 6250rpm
  • Max Torque 600Nm at 2600 – 5600rpm
  • Gearbox 8-speed automatic
  • Length 4726mm
  • Width 1897mm
  • Height 1667mm
  • Wheelbase 2864mm
  • Tank size 65 litres

Powering the X3 M is a 2,993cc, inline, six-cylinder twin-turbocharged petrol engine that makes 480hp and 600Nm of torque. This twin-turbo motor uses two single-scroll turbos: one for cylinders 1-3 and the other for 4-6. Among the various innovative solutions and weight-saving measures, this one uses forged crankshafts, which are not merely lightweight but offer extreme torsional resistance, in line with its high-revving nature.

By default, the exhaust flaps are wide open for a very satisfying orchestra on start-up. Right from the get-go, the X3 M feels very potent in the way it drives. Throttle responses are sharp. Prod the throttle and this near two-tonne SUV scoots forward with an extraordinary sense of urgency. The rev-happy engine pulls relentlessly till 7,200rpm and it spins quickly and freely.

Complementing this engine is the superb 8-speed automatic gearbox, which remains in the right gear at all times. While there are paddleshifters, the automatic is so good that you will seldom find the need for a manual intervention. The 8-speed automatic also allows you to control the speed and intensity of the gearshifts via three settings.

On the performance front, the SUV scoots to 100kph in just 4.5sec, and it relentlessly pulls till its electronically limited top speed of 250kph. Even its kick-down timings from 20-80kph and 40-100kph surprisingly take the same amount of time, both under 3sec, which goes to show how strong its pulling power is.

Ride comfort is not as surplus as the standard X3, but for an M car it is still quite forgiving in ‘Comfort’. In Sport and Sport+, the dampers feel the stiffest, and riding on the 20-inch wheels, shocks do filter through into the cabin. Show this SUV some corners, however, and its stiff setup really shines.

The X3 M feels agile and wraps itself around you like a much smaller and nimbler car. The turn-in is sharp and the four-wheel-drive system is extremely grippy. Unlike the M5, though, there is no option for a two-wheel-drive mode. The steering, however, feels a bit artificial in certain modes, and it is not a razor-sharp unit in terms of steering feel.

One of the key highlights of the X3 M are its brakes, which are exceptional not only in terms of pedal feel but also in terms of performance. In panic braking scenarios, the massive two-tonne SUV can be brought to a complete halt quicker and in a shorter distance than some sports cars on sale, which is commendable.

If you want an SUV that blends into everyday traffic but still lets you enjoy those midnight or early morning drives, the BMW X3 M is for you. This BMW is far more practical and usable due to its high ground clearance, spacious cabin and boot, and good all-round visibility. Think of the X3 M as an M3 sportscar on stilts and you will see it in the right light. And when you consider that the now-discontinued 2015 M3 was launched in India at a price tag that was ₹20 lakh more than X3 M SUV in 2020, you would even find value in this proposition.

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