Review update: 2022 BMW X3 M Competition cranks up more

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The M stands for More in the updated 2022 BMW X3 M Competition. The top tune of the performance crossover dials up 503 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque from its turbocharged inline-6 this year, representing 37 lb-ft more than last year’s model. More is better. 

The 0-60 mph time drops from 4.0 to 3.7 seconds, which is the same as the twin-turbo V-8 powered X5 M Competition. The compact crossover performs even more like a hot hatch version of the related M3 performance sedan, but with higher sight lines, more cargo and passenger space, and a stiff ride.

With the $2,500 M Driver’s package on my tester, more applies to the top speed as well, peaking at 177 mph instead of 155 mph. I didn’t tempt that spec, and wouldn’t have even if the Chicago winter took a break from being a Chicago winter. 

More also correlates to the price: The X3 M Competition cost about $6,000 more than a similarly equipped M3 with all-wheel drive. At $87,345, including $995 destination, my X3 M Competition tester could be viewed as a steep price for a performance crossover, but compared to the $115,000 X5 M Competition, it can be viewed as a deal. 

In a week of spitting up snow around Chicagoland, here’s where it hit and missed.  

Miss: Price

The elephant in this room is a Frozen Marina Bay Blue Metallic paint job that costs $4,500, but also includes a lovely Merino leather interior. The name was almost fitting for single-digit temps that turned parking lots into something like frozen marinas. The $7,000 Competition package makes track driving a weekend option, but the M40i hits the sweet spot for everyday value, performance, and comfort for $20,000 less than the base X3 M Competition. 

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Hit: Pretty

The rich dawn-like blue color is striking, especially on the balanced proportions of the X3. The rising window line tucks into rear quarter windows that connect the X3’s long nose and short butt. Automakers typically overdesign the C-pillar or try to erase it with a floating roof, but BMW nails it. The mean lower face of the M Competition gives way to an interior as warm and inviting as babka, especially with the M Sport seats covered in beige Merino leather and black alcantara. Delish. 

Miss: Gesture control

The party trick of adjusting volume and tuning with the wave of a hand gets old, especially for the talking gesticulators among us. The smartphone wireless chargers are on hold for 2022 due to parts shortages, but the recess under the center stack remains the perfect spot to stow a phone. If I took it out at a stoplight, my grip of the phone consistently muted the infotainment. The voice commands are great, the console dial works well enough, and the 12.3-inch touchscreen is only a slight reach away. Gesture control should go home.

Hit: Performance

The 503 hp and 479 lb-ft coming from the turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 is as intoxicating as it is irrepressible. I never made so many excuses to find on ramps to experience the rush of accelerating to freeway speed. The engine, transmission, steering, and chassis tuning can be set to Efficient, Comfort, Sport, or Sport+ modes, and many combinations therein. M Mode opens up the customizer to Road, Sport, and Track settings that progressively dial down traction control and other safety nannies. But the red hot M1 and M2 buttons on either side of the steering wheel are configurable to simplify the process for the X3’s more aggressive settings, if you like. The X3 M Competition burns, but the M Sport seats do a good job of keeping the driver square and center.

2022 BMW X3 M Competition

2022 BMW X3 M Competition

2022 BMW X3 M Competition

2022 BMW X3 M Competition

2022 BMW X3 M Competition

2022 BMW X3 M Competition

Miss: Too firm

Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ settings should be renamed Firm, Firmer, and Firmest. Even in Comfort, the X3 M Competition rides so firm that I was wondering how my vertebrae would hold up while cushioning the blow. The winter tires strapped onto 21-inch M wheels did nothing to cushion a ride that made my hide feel every crack, as if the dry choppy roads mirrored my dry chapping skin and winter’s crackling bones. Like all M Competitions, it’s intended for high-performance driving, so if your thing is outgunning the young punk at the light or lighting up triple digits from the on-ramp to the freeway instead of hitting the track, the X3 M40i serves that goal just fine without such a punishing ride quality. 

Hit: Control

It was an odd sensation to hammer the pedal of a performance machine and feel it putter around a snow-filled parking lot. Traction control had cut the power, and the all-wheel-drive system behaved as intended, which instilled much more confidence than in a rear-drive sport sedan. A thumb press to the M1 button shut the nannies off and released my inner hoonigan. M Dynamic mode sends more torque to the rear axle, though it doesn’t have a rear-drive-only mode like the M5. The electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential sends that torque to the rear wheel with the most grip. 

And with it came the rumble, and there sprayed rooster tails of snow. The front wheels corrected and the rear wheels spun, the tail wagging like a happy puppy. Even with the traction control in a timeout, the high-powered X3 M followed my inputs, feral but obedient. 

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2022 BMW X3 M Competition

2022 BMW X3 M Competition

2022 BMW X3 M Competition

2022 BMW X3 M Competition

Miss: Gear shifter

Wrapped in leather and embossed with M, the gear shifter defaults to a neutral position until you touch it. Then it’s position becomes aggravating. Notch it up and left to reverse, or notch it right for drive, or double notch it for manual shift mode. More often than not, even after a week and nearly 200 miles, I inadvertently put it into manual. It helps with shifting on the fly, I suppose, but the paddle shifters are cleaner, quicker, simpler, and better. 

Hit: Roomy functionality

The X3’s big advantage over the M3 sedan is its space, enabled by a hatchback body style. Four sit in relative comfort with 36.4 inches of rear leg room, and better rear head room than the related X4. The 40/20/40-split rear seats expand the cargo area from 28.7 cubic feet to 62.7 cubic feet, but we kept the middle seat down for hockey sticks and other gear while still seating four. No way we could have had that everyday practicality with the M3. 

Few other performance crossovers balance this kind of power and practicality, but the X3 M Competition might be tuned too firm for daily family driving. 

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2022 BMW X3 M Competition

Base price: $70,895, including $995 destination

Price as tested: $87,345

Drivetrain: 503-hp turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 with an 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive 

EPA fuel economy: 15/20/17 mpg format

The hits: Power, control, looks, roominess

The misses: Price, firmness, odd controls

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