As the decision was made to make an M version of the BMW X3, it would have been foolish to not apply the same mechanicals to the X4. The two cars are all but identical under the skin, so you choose which one you like the look of. Here we test drive the new X4 M on road and track.
In the metal
The BMW X4 M Competition (the only variant to be offered on these shores) gets the same core visual makeover as the X3 M Competition. So, that means larger air intakes and a restyled kidney grille up front, 21-inch rims, huge M-styled door mirrors, lots of black detailing, a new rear bumper and, of course, quad exhaust outlets. Unique to the X4 M is an additional lip spoiler below the glass in the rear hatch. Buyers can choose from seven paint colours, including the new Toronto Red shown here.
Inside, gorgeous M Sport seats upholstered in Merino leather are standard - available in black or one of two bi-colour themes. There's a BMW M steering wheel with tactile gearchange paddles behind and bright red M1/M2 mode buttons above the wheel boss. Behind are a bespoke M take on the X4's instruments and a bright red engine-start button, as debuted in the BMW M5. Also borrowed from the M5's parts bin is a chunky gear shifter, with an integrated toggle switch to alter the Drivelogic transmission settings. That's flanked by M set-up buttons specific to the model to allow the driver to alter each of the sub-systems to their liking.
The rear accommodates three passengers, though with less headroom than in the BMW X3 M. Nonetheless, a split-folding rear seat back is standard and, while the X4 M's boot is 25 litres smaller than the X3's, it still holds a useful 525 litres at a minimum.
The BMW X3 M and X4 M weigh the same as each other and have the same major components in the chassis, so, while there's a slight difference between the two body styles in terms of weight distribution, BMW M tweaked the suspension with common goals. In short: no normal person should be able to tell the difference from behind the wheel. So, while we did spend some time in the X4 M on the road to ascertain this (read the X3 M first drive for the road impressions), here we'll focus on its track performance. And yes, we know that no owner will take this car on a race circuit, but access to a serious track did allow us to explore the car's abilities to the full, in safety.
First up, the smooth surface and long straights of the excellent Monticello Motor Club track failed to disguise the huge performance on tap. The X4 M is a massively fast car, pulling hard from low speeds and still accelerating meaningfully as the new twin-turbo engine hits its rev limiter. It's a purposeful noise it makes rather than a sonorous one, but you'll be too busy concentrating on what's coming up next to take too much notice of that.
Speaking of which, the standard brakes are immense. The X4 M gets BMW M compound discs as standard and huge callipers (same as the BMW M760Li on the front) and they don't wilt under the strain of a half dozen fast laps that include several big slowdowns. That's an encouraging start and gives you confidence to use the X4 M's performance to the full.
Not that you need to take off too much speed as you approach a corner, as there's lots of mechanical grip on offer. Until the road tyres inevitably get too warm, front-end bite on turn-in is impressive and the variable ratio steering system does a good job of conveying how much grip is still available. It's easy to trim your line through a corner using the throttle, too, while the rear-biased M xDrive all-wheel-drive system enables you to get back on the gas early in a corner.
Do that and the X4 M exhibits a satisfyingly rear-lead attitude on the exit of a bend. BMW M did toy with the idea of giving this car the same rear-wheel-drive-only driving mode as the M5 gets, but decided against, though the driver can choose from standard 4WD and 4WD Sport. The latter puts more power to the back, more of the time and it works particularly well with the mid-setting for the stability control system called M Dynamic mode. This means there's still an electronic safety net in place if you overcook it, but as we discovered, it, in conjunction with the electronically controlled Active M rear differential, allows for gratuitous four-wheel drifts in certain circumstances - with the wide expanse of a race track to play with of course.
The X4 M's talents run a lot deeper than tyre-shredding for the fun of it. At very high speed (we regularly saw over 200km/h on the speedo on-track) it manages to feel stable yet also agile, giving you huge confidence in its ability to cope with whatever you can throw at it. No, it'll never be seen as 'fun' as a BMW M3/M4, but it's not that far behind, and it certainly allows more people to access its considerable performance more of the time.
What you get for your money
The new X4 M is priced from €133,270, which is substantially more than the current X4 M40i, which is €91,595.Ouch. It is well-equipped, though, including everything mentioned above, plus three-zone climate control, ambient lighting, electrically adjusted and heated front seats, Parking Assistant and a 10.25-inch colour touchscreen. The latter features the full suite of BMW Professional Multimedia, including satnav and BMW ConnectedDrive Services.
Let's be blunt: nobody is going to buy the BMW X4 M and then take it regularly to a race circuit to test its mettle. However, the knowledge that this SUV can be driven just like a BMW M sports car may be enough for it to appeal to car enthusiasts that happen to want all the other attributes of an all-wheel-drive SUV for everyday use. It'll undoubtedly court controversy amongst the commentariat, but there's no arguing with the X4 M's elevated ability.