The SUV revolution continues unabated in 2022. American buyers can't get enough of the big boxy hatchbacks with all-wheel-drive, but performance is still the secret sauce for many drivers. Leave it to BMW to deliver the goods in their popular X3 compact crossover.
The basic X3 has been around since 2003. Along with several other models, the X3 is made in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and from there it's shipped all over the world. It's not common knowledge, but BMW exports more vehicles from the United States than any other automaker. So if you want to buy American, the X3 is a great choice.
Starting in 2020, BMW added the M to the X3 line. BMW's M stands for Motorsports, and it indicates a high-performance version of any of their vehicles. The X3M offers more power, a more responsive suspension, and better brakes than the normal X3.
Under the hood, the X3M carries BMW's usual 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine, but with a twin-scroll turbocharger that boosts output to 473 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque. That power passes through BMW's electronically controlled eight-speed automatic transmission and is then routed to all four wheels using BMW's xDrive AWD system and an M Sport differential at the rear axle.
On the underside, the X3M has an adaptive sport suspension that self-adjusts as you drive, and special M compound brake pads inside big blue calipers, wrapping around large cross-drilled brake rotors. This is enhanced with a $7,000 Competition Package, that dresses up the interior with sporty touches, but most importantly adds the M Sport exhaust system.
Inside, our test vehicle had the Executive Package, which adds $3,650 to the price. This includes a heated steering wheel, front and rear heated seats, automatic parking assistant, a head-up display, wireless device charging station, a rear-view camera, and gesture control for the infotainment.
Gesture control is worth explaining. The X3M watches your motions, and you can raise or lower the sound volume, change stations or tracks, and do a few other things by waving your hand. If you ever wanted to feel like a Jedi or Harry Potter, this feature will please your soul. It's so much fun that you'll end up spending a half-hour sitting in the driveway practicing until you can amaze your family. Inside, the X3M is very comfortable, and the competition package adds special seats, seatbelts, and trim elements. The Harman Kardon audio system sounds great, and there's the whole gesture thing, right? On the road, the X3M feels like it would be at home at any race track in the country. It's fast because the engine makes great power and then the eight-speed gearbox means there's always a gear ready to let the X3M take off running. You can paddle-shift the gears yourself, or just let the BMW handle it for you. The suspension corners flat, and gives you excellent feel for the road without shaking your fillings loose. Finally, the brakes will stand the X3M on its nose if you really put your foot in it, but you can modulate them to get your braking just right.
All this performance and tech costs money, and the X3M is no one's idea of an economy SUV. The starting price is $69,900, and by the time you add in that Competition Package and the Executive features, this vehicle is priced at $82,095. But you can certainly spend more and get less for your money. If you need to haul the family, but you really just want to haul, the 2022 BMW X3M is an excellent choice.
2022 BMW X3M
Base price: $69,900
Price as tested: $82,095
Type: Compact SUV
Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged inline 6-cylinder (473 hp, 442 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 15/20
Overall length: 186.2 inches
Curb weight: 4,620 pounds
Final assembly: Spartanburg, South Carolina
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