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The 5 Things We Love Most About the 2020 BMW X3 M Competition

A sporty crossover that’s among the hottest out there.

Rory JurneckaWriter, Photographer

As anyone knows after driving a few, so-called sporty crossover SUVs are typically a mixed bag. Sure, there's usually plenty of power and some go-fast tack-ons, but very few sport crossovers are real performance machines that are as good to drive as they are to look at. We recently got some time in the 2020 BMW X3 M Competition, and found it ranks highly among our most fun-to-drive sporty crossover SUVs. Here are five solid reasons why.

The Next-Gen 3.0-liter Inline-Six

At the heart of the 2020 BMW X3 M Competition lies BMW's all-new S58 twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder engine, which BMW will also use in the new M3 sedan and M4 coupe. BMW claims that despite sharing the same displacement and configuration of the outgoing S55 engine, the S58 shares just 10 percent of its parts with the older engine. That means 90 percent of the S58 is new—and we love every bit of it. With 503 hp on tap (a nice bump from the 473 hp that the standard X3 M's S58 produces), there's no shortage of power, and the sound from the Competition's sport exhaust system is classic BMW straight-six (though some may prefer it to be even louder).

With a transmission this good, who needs a dual-clutch?

Power through the eight cogs in the X3 M Competition's eight-speed ZF automatic transmission and you just might think it's a fancy dual-clutch job. Nope, it's just one of the very best automatics in the business. Maybe it's some milliseconds shy of a Porsche PDK unit, but the ZF shifts more than quickly enough, both up and down through the box, to satisfy us in Sport and Sport + modes, while being silky smooth around town in Comfort mode. We even love the silver metal steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles, which not only look great, they also have excellent tactile response.

The interior isn't just good looking, it's also well thought-out. 

The X3 M Competition's interior is a nice place to be, with quality materials and thoughtful organization. We particularly love the comfortable but well-bolstered M Sport seats which hold the driver in place without being uncomfortable on longer trips or difficult to climb into. While some may view the BMW's center stack as being outdated, its combination of hard controls for stereo and climate control, plus a few other functions, along with the rotary knob to control the horizontal dash-top infotainment display just plain works. In this age, when manufacturers are placing more and more controls all on touchscreen sub-menus, we appreciate the simplicity of hard buttons and dials for functions that are used on nearly every drive.

The BMW X3 M Competition is a cohesive package. 

Check the box for the Competition package on the X3 M and you get the aforementioned sports exhaust, unique lightweight wheels, thicker anti-roll bars, M Sport seats, some extra gloss black interior trim, and that 30-hp bump in output. Oh yeah, and the top speed increases from the standard X3 M's 155 mph to a big 177 mph. Add in a 4.0-second 0 to 60 mph time according to BMW and the X3 M Competition is a seriously capable car. You'll just have to stomach the $7,000 price bump over the standard version.

It's a crossover that drives more like a car.  

It's true, from behind the wheel, the X3 M Competition feels more like a sport sedan than any larger, heavier X5 M ever has. With its compact dimensions, stiff anti-roll bars that keep body roll to a minimum and an M Drive Sport mode that moves power bias rearward, the X3 M has a similarly playful, hooligan personality to the M2 Competition but in a bigger package. It's taken BMW nearly 20 years to deliver an M version of its X3 compact crossover, but the wait was worth it. As a competitor to the best the sporty crossover class has to offer (namely, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio and the Porsche Macan Turbo), the BMW X3 M Competition should sit proudly amongst its rivals.

 

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