The BMW X4 M is priced from $84,800 in Canada, $73,400 in the US.
The tested X4 M was a Competition that retails for $95,600 in Canada, $80,400 in the US.
A small SUV has no business being this fast.
“How fast and powerful can we make an SUV that isn’t one but will be classified as one?” Using a broken German accent, we can imagine this was the question someone may have thought up but never actually put out into the universe. Somehow, BMW designers still heard it and thus was born the X4 M Competition.
Obviously, it didn’t happen like this but the BMW X4, which launched for 2014, was a near-instant hit. The market will have waited until a few years after the launch of the second-generation X4 in 2018 to finally get an M version. By the looks of it, it did not arrive too soon. In the greater Montreal area, roughly one out of every four X4s I spot sports an M badge. And they’re real, unlike the many “M X5” and “M X6” I regularly see out there…
Normally, I’d chime in here and state that the trend that dictates that “coupe” versions of SUVs is a pointless exercise in extorting more money for less content, but I won’t. There’s something about BMW SUVs, or SAVs, that gets me every time: They’re great to drive. With the possible exceptions of the X1 and X2 (and 2 Series and M5), these vehicles encompass the best of BMW.
Real M power
The 2021 BMW X4 M and the tested X4 M Competition do have one major flaw: They are too much. I say this mostly with regards to the built-in performance. Let’s start off with power. The X4 M gets the top-spec outputs from the incredible twin-power turbocharged 3.0-litre 6-cylinder engine. For the M, it produces 473 horsepower and a generous 442 lb.-ft. of torque while in the Competition, the numbers jump to 503 and 469 respectively.
It’s not that the X4 M is too powerful but it’s another vehicle that cannot be exploited to its full potential. Yes, the same can be said about the M5, M8, X5 M, and all Audi RS and Mercedes-AMG vehicles but there are exceptions to this rule. The thing is that vehicles like the M5 and RS 6 are icons and are elevated above criticism (or nearly) but in the X4 M’s case, there are better alternatives.
In the real world, there is no advantage to reaching 100km/h in 4.2 seconds (4.1 for the Competition) compared to the impressively well-sorted X4 M40i’s 4.8 seconds. The reality is that in capable hands, the M40i could be as quick on a closed-circuit as the M. If the M is in equally capable hands, it will amaze, however.
The 2021 BMW X4 M includes the M Chassis with dynamic damper control, an M sport differential, and the M-tuned xDrive all-wheel-drive system. The Competition, on top of the extra power, throws in an M-tuned exhaust system and 21-inch wheels and tires. The extra goodies make the X4 M an ultra-capable super-high-performance SUV. But few will ever understand how capable.
Mind the modes
The X4 M’s throttle and engine response are immediate no matter the drive mode. Flirting with the go-pedal results in illegal speeds faster than one can utter “sh*t!” when fighting off g-forces with non-existent abdominal muscles. The multiple drive modes are complemented by programmable M1 and M2 modes and individual settings for the damping, steering, and powertrain.
As far as configurations are concerned, the M chassis and suspension must be left in “Comfort” at all times lest the driver chose to be shaken and stirred. And even when in Comfort, the dampers provide very little compliance. Grip, traction, and propulsion are immense and thankfully, the brakes are beyond reproach as they are extremely powerful.
Driving the X4 M Competition is not a restful experience. If anything, it can become somewhat aggravating in stop-and-go traffic. The mindset when driving the M40i is a far more civilized one.
Sleek and fit
The 2nd generation X4 corrected the first’s bloated presence. The current X4 is far more chiseled and determined-looking. The M versions are fitted with an aerodynamic kit, M rear spoiler, and quad tailpipes which deliver a clear message. The standard 20-inch wheels are replaced by 21s with the Competition trim crushing any doubts as to the SAV’s identity and purpose.
The cabin is a typical BMW environment with familiar HVAC, audio, and infotainment control layouts. Visually, the only element that could be considered off is the steering wheel – for some reason, its bottom is not flat. Is this not how we identify sporty vehicles anymore? The level of detail and attention paid to the interior is incredible. The Sakhir Orange Extended Merino Leather, as fitted to the tester, is phenomenal. The ultra-firm seats are supportive and the driving position is about business.
The X4 M is loaded with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 10.25-inch central information display. The latter includes the iDrive 7 system which can be operated via touchscreen or touchpad controller. For the most part, the system is intuitive even though there are countless menus.
When less is more
The 2021 X4 M and Competition have a few faults. One is that they can never truly be used as a means to cruise about. They are obsessed with speed and dialed to 10 even when at rest. The other issue is the X4 M40i. At $69,500, not only is it $15,000 less expensive than the X4 M ($25,000 compared to the Competition) but it is a usable 90% of what the Ms are.
The reviewed Donington Grey units (a terrific colour) also included the Ultimate Package (cooled seats, driving assistant plus, M carbon exterior package, more), M compound brakes, and more for a grand total of $108,095.
As much as I enjoyed the X4 M, I’d opt for the M40i. Now, if I was to choose between the X4 M, Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S, and Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, I’d go all in and risk it all with the Italian SUV.