Lots of ponies under the hood, great handling, and a sporty yet luxurious interior make the BMW X3 M Competition an extremely compelling SUV package for a wide range of buyers.
The BMW X3 M Competition doesn’t have the presence of a Range Rover Sport HSE Dynamic, the gorgeous style of an Alfa Stelvio Quadrifoglio, or the tech-packed and beautiful interior of a Mercedes AMG GLC.
What it does offer is a truly impressive combination of the things its competitors offer, in a very fast German no-nonsense package.
If you always wanted a German sports car with all the latest technology, luxury, and creature comforts, but need to haul gear, friends, and/or family, this is the vehicle for you.
2022 BMW X3 M Competition
I spent a week with this SUV in and around Portland, Ore. It was used for everything from daycare delivery duty to backroads canyon carving.
Here’s what I discovered during my time with the 2022 BMW X3 M Competition.
- Fast and fun to drive
- Premium-looking and -feeling interior
- More interior room than you expect
- Harsh ride
- Horrible fuel economy
- Overly aggressive safety nannies
I’ve always thought of the X3 as a pretty small SUV. But, as is the case with all SUVs these days, it’s grown to be quite a usable, medium-size machine.
What this means is that it will comfortably fit four adults. And it still has plenty of room in the back for adventure gear.
The big story with this SUV is its performance. There are 503 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque on tap through the skinny pedal. The 3.0L twin-turbo V6 is backed by an 8-speed M Sport automatic transmission.
Further, the X3 M Competition weighs in at a curb weight of 4,620 pounds. Add in xDrive AWD, and this combo means that it can hit 155 mph and sprint to 60 mph from a standstill in only 3.7 seconds. That’s fast!
But enough of that, already; you can look up the specs of this go-fast luxury SUV anywhere. Let’s dive into what it’s like to drive, be a passenger in, and generally live with.
First, this is a performance vehicle and feels like one in all regards. The suspension is spectacular when pushing the vehicle hard. But it’s overly harsh for daily use. Yes, the X3 M Competition has adaptive suspension; however, even in comfort mode, it’s quite firm.
The throttle response is near-instant, but somehow still very smooth. The brakes are aggressive and impressive. They boast a solid initial bite and smooth linear control after that.
Buckling up in the well-bolstered and super adjustable seats just feels like an occasion, especially with the M Sport seatbelts.
The driver’s seat feels like it’s offset to the right, but it isn’t. There is just way more room for your left knee than you get for your right, because of the encroaching center console.
The M Sport steering wheel feels sporty and premium, and offers a ton of telescoping adjustability —something much appreciated by tall drivers like myself.
The steering wheel audio volume controls are arrows and the radio station change control is a thumbwheel. While this works fine, it seems backward to the best ergonomic solution.
The traction control in the X3 M Competition inspires confidence. I was impressed with it when pushing hard on curvy backroads and especially so on summer tires when conditions got wet and cold, a common occurrence in Portland.
There is little doubt that you’ll find yourself at the gas pump — an expensive proposition these days — often in this performance SUV. Premium gas is required, and the EPA rates the fuel economy at 17 combined mpg, 15 city, and 20 highway. I have a heavy right foot and saw a 12.2 mpg average in my mostly city streets testing.
Customizable Modes and Settings
Through the infotainment screen, you can adjust a lot of the driving characteristics of this SUV. I played with all of them, found my favorite setup for the rough roads in Portland, and set up the M1 button on the steering wheel to my settings, for one-touch activation.
My preferences were Engine: Sport Plus, Transmission: D2, Chassis: Comfort, and Steering: Sport. This combo allowed me to access the most performance I could on variable-condition public roads without having violent shifts, unnecessarily harsh suspension, or overly heavy steering.
There is also an active exhaust button, which does make quite a difference in the sound coming from the tailpipes. Even in quiet mode, though, there is still a nice low growl from the twin-turbo V6.
Auto hold mode is super convenient and works nearly seamlessly — it is a driver assistance system that automatically applies and releases the brakes when the vehicle is stopped. This is great for relaxing in stop-and-go traffic by allowing you to take your foot off the brake, but it’s super annoying when you want to make a quick three-point turn or when trying to back out of the driveway slowly.
Hill Descent Control is standard on the X3 M Competition, but there are zero reasons you need that feature on this vehicle with 21-inch wheels and rubber band tires, as it’s not going to go off-road. The only place you might use this feature in this SUV is to help control your speed on a steep, snowy driveway.
If you can get past the harsh ride and poor fuel economy, then the X3 M Competition is a compelling vehicle to own as an everyday, do-it-all SUV. It just feels premium and is truly impressive and fun to drive in a spirited manner.
Features and Flops
The exterior styling of the X3 M is muscular and offers distinctively BMW elements. From afar, though, the silhouette is so very similar to so many other generic SUVs on the market today.
Of its styling elements, I just couldn’t get my head wrapped around the rear tail lamps. They look like warts protruding from the sculpted, muscular SUV.
The interior is a bit busy with too many buttons and a cluttered driver’s gauge cluster. With that said, the heads-up display is clear and impressive — as long as you’re not wearing polarized sunglasses, as it disappears in that case. I also really like the carbon interior accents.
I usually find carbon like this to be a bit cheesy, but BMW has done a really good job at making it look cool and appropriate in the X3 M Competition.
While there is lots of rear head and legroom for passengers, a forward-facing infant car seat only fits in the middle of the back seat — just barely.
There is also an impressive amount of rear cargo room behind the rear seats.
The Techy Side of the X3
This luxury SUV is also full of tech. I like the position of the wireless phone charging pad.
The gesture control feature on the infotainment system is actually super cool and handy, once you get used to it. And the front seats are heated and cooled, but sadly the rears are only heated.
Driver assistance and safety systems are all there but are overly aggressive. Lane keep assist is one of these systems; it works well, but it can also get in the way, especially if you need to make a quick lane change maneuver without hitting your turn signal first.
The surround sensors and warnings are incredibly annoying, as they warn of everything around you aggressively, even when you’ve still got plenty of distance from the objects. Another “safety” feature that drove me nuts was the obnoxiously loud turn signal.
One last random feature that I found to be pretty cool is the light projection on the ground when you unlock or get out of the car. It’s a swoopy line design, a nice departure from the brand and/or company logos that are normally used for this feature.
2022 X3 M Competition Pricing
The window sticker, as tested, on this 2022 BMW X3 M Competition was $82,095. That included $69,900 for the X3 M, $550 for paint, $7,000 for the Competition Package, and $3,650 for the Executive Package.
The Competition Package gets you an M Sport exhaust, 21-inch wheels, M seat belts, M Sport seats, and extended Shadowline trim.
The Executive Package gets you a heated steering wheel, front and rear heated seats, Parking Assistant Plus, head-up display, wireless charging, rearview camera, and gesture controls.
You can build your own X3 M Competition online.
Some Parting BMW X3 M Thoughts
I thought I was the cool dad rolling in a top-spec daycare shuttle when driving the BMW X3 M Competition, but that changed when another father rolled up in a DeLorean to pick up his kid. As the gull-wing door lifted, his legendary status was established. Well played, sir, well played!
I did have a friend, a non-car person, say to me that the X3 looked like a Subaru. I’m too buried in the car industry to see it, but I found that to be pretty harsh criticism, as Subaru hasn’t been nailing styling lately.
Right after this press loaner, I spent a few days in the over-$200,000 Aston Martin DBX. While the materials used, exterior design, and overall ride quality were markedly better, the X3 M Competition compared impressively well for nearly a third of the price.