2021 BMW X4 M Competition Review: Impractically Imperfect

Kyle Patrick
by Kyle Patrick


Engine: 3.0L I6 Turbo
Output: 503 hp, 442 lb-ft
Transmission: 8AT, AWD
US fuel economy (MPG): 14/19/16
CAN fuel economy (L/100KM): 16.6/12.1/14.1
Starting Price (USD): $74,395 (inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (USD): $92,745 (inc. dest.)
Starting Price (CAD): $87,280 (inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (CAD): $110,575 (inc. dest.)

It can be hard to take a “sporty” crossover seriously, but the 2021 BMW X4 M is not one of those times.

BMW took its time crafting M versions of the X3 and X4, focusing instead on their larger siblings first. Debuting for this generation, the M versions of these crossovers pack as much as 503 horsepower, and the necessary hardware to make the most of that power on the road.

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Is this brawny little brute’s outright usability is compromised by its dramatic roofline? Yes. But then again, so are regular coupes, right? In the X4 M’s favor, it still packs four doors and a useful amount of storage space. If you’ve got a hankering for a Bavarian sports coupe but can’t give up the practicality inherent to SUVs, the X4 M does an unnervingly good job of blending the two disparate segments together.

Full power

My Donington Grey tester is no regular X4 M, but the top Competition trim. This adds an extra 30 hp to the stock 473-horse corral, plus bigger 21-inch rims and a smattering of exterior styling changes. The S58 inline-six engine is the same one now found in the M3 and M4, and it’s a wonderfully rev-happy unit. Torque peaks at 442 lb-ft at 2,600 rpm—or rather plateaus, because it holds all the way to 5,950 rpm. The redline is set at 7,200 rpm, a relatively high ceiling in today’s turbocharged landscape.

SEE ALSO: 5 Ways the 2020 BMW M2 CS Marks the Glorious End of an Era

You’ll want to explore the upper reaches of the tachometer, too. BMW’s inline-sixes have a signature high-rev note that remains alive and well in the X4 M. Curiously, it even sounds better than the M2 CS, at least to these ears.

All this power heads to the X4 M’s four corners via an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. The auto fires off shifts nearly as quick as a dual-clutch unit, complete with parps and bangs from the quad exhaust tips in Sport mode. The all-wheel drive setup is similar to the one found in the latest M5, though the X4 doesn’t offer front-axle disconnect for full rear-drive hooliganism.

SEE ALSO: BMW M5 Competition vs Porsche Panamera GTS Comparison

This is still a rear-biased system, however, as the 255/40 front, 265/40 rear tire setup hints. The X4 M has quick reflexes, darting into corners with just a hint of understeer. Grip is immense, allowing this 4,590-pound (2,082 kg) beast to corner at a level thought impossible for SUVs a decade ago. It’ll happily click off the standard run to highway speed in about four seconds flat too, shoving your head back into those M-branded headrests.

As accomplished as the X4 M is, that portly curb weight is always on the mind. It manifests in a few ways. Even though it’s stiff, the X4 M still leans in corners, a feeling the higher seating exacerbates. That stiffness becomes a real issue around town too, where the low-speed ride is brittle and uncompromising, even on the softest setting. The noise from those big tires also finds its way into the cabin, serving as a constant reminder of the X4 M’s sporting bias. In this way, it’s very much like a pared-back sports car—but that’s not an aspect luxury crossover buyers are likely looking for.

More practical than you’d think

It’s easy to dismiss the X4 M as a vanity project, sacrificing the X3’s boxy backend for something far less practical. In truth, unless you regularly stack the cargo hold to the ceiling, the X4 M is just as useful. The load floor is wide and flat, easily capable of swallowing up a two-week grocery run without issue. Official measures are 19.0 cubic feet (538 L) with the seats up, and 51.0 cubes (1,444 L) with them down.

SEE ALSO: 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Review: Muscle Utility Vehicle

From the front row, the only hint you’re in the slantback SUV is the tiny mail-slot view in the rearview mirror. The dashboard design is the same as regular X3 and X4 models, a clean, ergonomic setup that is easy to get comfortable in. This one picks up M-specific goodies, including the seats, steering wheel, and tri-color seatbelts. The seats are excellent: amply bolstered to hold you in place during cornering, but still soft enough to be comfortable on long hauls. The Sakhir Orange leather certainly brightens up the place, too.

Like the units in every other modern BMW, the X4’s steering wheel is too thick, but the leather feels great. Two red M buttons sit above the spokes, allowing drivers to program their own presets for the various transmission, suspension, throttle, and stability settings. The shifter is a good size, though the left-right required for three-point turns is never not awkward.

Rear-seat passengers will find the accommodations acceptable. Leg- and headroom are both adult-friendly: I’m able to slot in “behind myself” without issue, at 5’10”. Naturally it does feel a little more cramped than an X3, with the pinched window line making for a narrow view out. The two-pane sunroof helps a bit, there.

What about tech?

It’s a modern BMW: of course it’s loaded with tech. A central 10.3-inch touchscreen hosts the latest version of iDrive. It’s a smooth system, quick to respond and clear to read at a quick glance. Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are both included, too, should you prefer your mobile’s layout. A wireless charge pad is also included.

SEE ALSO: 2020 BMW X3 PHEV Review: Plug-In the One to Have

This tester also comes with a variety of optional features, most of which are driver assists. Adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, evasion assist, front cross-traffic alert, and a parking assist are all present. The surround view monitor is a boon given the X4 M’s substantial blind spots, too.

Who’s the target audience?

You can’t look down the street without seeing compact crossovers. They’re for everyone.

The field is awash with muscular M competitors. The most obvious choices are the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S and Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. The Merc comes in either “coupe” or upright form, much like the X3 and X4 twins. It packs a 503-horsepower V8, an engine layout it has in common with the 550-horsepower Jaguar F-Pace SVR. The Alfa arranges its six cylinders in a vee, producing 505 horsepower in a shape that splits the difference between the X3 and X4.

There’s also the Porsche Macan Turbo. The smaller Stuttgart SUV can’t match the power figures of the rest of the class, but it offers perhaps the best ride/handling balance of the lot.

SEE ALSO: 2020 Porsche Macan Turbo Review

The X4 M starts at $74,395 ($92,745 CAD), including destination. The Competition adds $7,000 ($10,300 CAD) to the bottom line. That puts it a few grand shy of the $77,950 GLC 63 Coupe, with a similar up-charge for the 503-hp S. Even in Comp form, the X4 M undercuts the Stelvio ($82,645 / $102,385 CAD), Jag ($85,750 / $98,050 CAD), and Porsche ($85,950 / $98,000 CAD). This optioned-up tester goes further still, ringing up at $92,745 ($110,575 CAD).

Verdict: 2021 BMW X4 M Review

Since BMW introduced the original coupe-over X6, it has billed the shape as the merger of sports car prowess and SUV practicality. The X4 M comes closest to that promise, delivering thrilling performance in a shape that still offers some genuine usefulness. In making such a hefty lump of glass and metal perform such feats, however, BMW has sacrificed ride comfort for old-school suspension stiffness. So long as you can overlook that—or maybe even want it, I’m not judging—then the X4 M is an entertaining and fast family vehicle.

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  • Superman performance
  • Still plenty practical
  • ...Even the looks are pretty good now?


  • Rough-riding suspension
  • So heavy
  • Still has some awkward angles
Kyle Patrick
Kyle Patrick

Kyle began his automotive obsession before he even started school, courtesy of a remote control Porsche and various LEGO sets. He later studied advertising and graphic design at Humber College, which led him to writing about cars (both real and digital). He is now a proud member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), where he was the Journalist of the Year runner-up for 2021.

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