Review: 2021 BMW X4 M Competition
Among Bavaria’s best.
Performance SUVs are here to stay, and it’s time we car enthusiasts accept that for a few reasons.
For one, like it or not, 80 per cent of vehicles sold in Canada today are light trucks and SUVs. While our northern climate leads us to trend more heavily in this direction, we’re certainly not the only market on the planet doing so. As much as it may hurt the hearts of supercar enthusiasts to see SUVs touted as track warriors, automakers want and need to build halo cars that look the same as what people are driving and buying. That’s just reality.
But on top of that, the notion that an SUV can hold a candle to a car in high-performance situations isn’t as insane as it was even a few years ago. Improvements to aspects like lowered centre of gravity, suspension advancements, and better torsional rigidity have led to SUVs that can legitimately post respectable lap times, including the 2021 BMW X4 M Competition under consideration here.
There’s just one problem: this is Canada. In an entire week with this beast in late November, priced at $110,575 with destination fees, the weather was so consistently miserable that I never had a chance to properly unwind it. Not once.
So, on the one hand, it’s perhaps a bit silly to spend six digits on a car you’d rarely take anywhere near its limit. But on the other hand, the same car got me through snow, rain, sleet, and freezing temperatures while still having that capability in its back pocket. In this niche corner of the automotive world, having your cake and eating it, too, is pretty much the entire point.
The BMW X4 is the coupe-styled equivalent of the somewhat more upright X3, and so this X4 M Competition has much in common with its X3-based sibling, just packed into sleeker styling. The 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged inline-six engine is the same as in the non-Competition X4 M, but it’s up-tuned slightly here to produce 503 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque, which peaks through a slightly wider band of 2,600 to 5,950 r.p.m. This is matched to an eight-speed sport-tuned automatic transmission and all-wheel drive by default, the latter being split between all four wheels thanks to the standard active rear differential.
So, yes, it rips – or, at least, one presumes that it does when the roads are clear enough. Perhaps more important to my specific situation is that while the two M drive modes are customizable and can be activated at the push of a steering-wheel-mounted button – and the electronically controlled dampers, steering response, and gearing can be adjusted on the fly with additional buttons on the centre console – the default comfort mode works well for keeping all of the extremes in check when the snow is flying and you just need to get from A to B. It can also make some fantastic noises, but you’d better be prepared to pay for them at the pumps: Natural Resources Canada rates its fuel consumption at 14.6 L/100 km combined. I did slightly better at an observed 13.8 L/100 km.
The red leather upholstery in this tester, technically named Sakhir Orange, makes this is one of the more attractive BMW interiors I’ve seen, although layer upon layer of contrasting colours and materials can make it come off as visually busy in places. As one would expect, the coupe-style shape is fashionable but does come with the downside of slightly reduced rearward visibility, second-row headroom, and cargo space – although I did manage to get a set of tires home in it with a kid in the back seat, so it’s not all bad news. The $10,000 Ultimate Package equipped here seems to be the one to have with heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, wireless smartphone charging, and a handful of driver assist technologies and other niceties.
The infotainment system is not the most up-front intuitive, but once you’ve wrapped your head around navigating through the menus and audio settings with the dial-based controller, it becomes a relatively easy one to flip through while driving. Apple CarPlay integration is standard; while wireless Android Auto is finally being rolled out to BMW’s line-up, it hasn’t made it into this vehicle just yet.
I fully respect what BMW has created in this machine, but were I buying something for myself, I truly think I’d be just as happy with an X4 M40i for the amount I’d ever get to use this model’s extreme of performance. But anyone who’s considering this likely isn’t looking for a modicum of practicality. It’s your money, and life is short. Spend it on whatever makes you happy.
2021 BMW X4 M Competition
BODY STYLE: Compact SUV
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, eight-speed automatic
ENGINE: 3.0-litre, twin-turbocharged inline-six engine, 503 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque.
FUEL ECONOMY: 16.6/12.1/14.6 L/100 km city/highway/combined
CARGO VOLUME: 523 litres
TOW RATING: N/A
PRICE: Base price (incl. destination) $98,08