Call us Abe Simpson, because the 2022 BMW X4 M’s turned us into gaffers yelling at clouds. We know the market demands SUVs and we understand that BMW’s M division likes to build impossibly capable track-focused performance machines. But maybe there are some models that are better off without the full M treatment. Like the X4.
Don’t get us wrong, we thoroughly enjoyed wringing out our Competition-spec X4 M’s twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six, which makes 503 horsepower (30 horses more than the run-of-the-mill X4 M). The latest iteration of BMW’s S58 straight-six is an absolute riot all the way up to its 7200 rpm redline. And for 2022, the $81,595 X4 M Competition’s engine benefits from an additional 37 pound-feet of torque (the $74,595 X4 M sees a 15-lb-ft jump in torque).
With 479 pound-feet of twist, the X4 M Competition accelerates with even more ferocity than before. Relative to a 2020 X4 M Competition we tested in late 2019, the torquier 2022 model cut 0.2 second from the SUV’s 5-to-60-mph and 30-to-50-mph jaunts, turning in times of 4.4 and 2.5 seconds, respectively. Its 3.0-second 50-to-70-mph run, meanwhile, marked a 0.1-second improvement compared to its 2020 counterpart, as did its 3.2-second run to 60 mph.
Of course, the X4 M’s near-intuitive eight-speed automatic transmission and quick-reacting all-wheel-drive system deserve some credit for these figures, as well, as the former provides cover for the turbos’ initial lag, while the latter ensures the Bimmer launches with little drama. But even with all-wheel-drive traction, this hunchbacked SUV packs enough grunt to lightly spin its front tires during full-throttle launches.
Thanks to the inclusion of the $2500 M Driver’s package, our X4 M Competition tops out at a claimed 177 mph. Possibly more worthwhile than the 22-mph increase in top speed, the package also includes a one-day driving class at BMW’s Performance Center.
With the aid of its 21-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, our Sao Paulo Yellow Bimmer pulled 0.96 g on the skidpad—the same number posted by the 2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio we tested less than a year ago. Despite its prodigious grip, the X4 M’s 4555-pound curb weight and high center of gravity handicap it on more serpentine stretches of tarmac. Note that a 2022 X4 M Competition at our 2022 Lightning Lap event lapped Virginia International Raceway in an impressive 3:02.9, but a more-than-600-pound lighter 2022 M3 Competition xDrive sedan—which employs essentially the same powertrain as the X4 M Competition—did the deed in a stunning 2:53.5.
Still, the sheer madness of the X4 M Competition is a thrill in its own right. Boot the accelerator out of a corner with the all-wheel-drive system set to its rear-biased Sport mode and the bulky BMW’s tail end will pop out for a brief bit of controlled oversteer. Enter a tight corner at a decent clip and the inside rear wheel will lift, turning this high-powered X4 variant into a temporary tripod. No doubt, the M3 and M4 are superior tools on back roads, but the X4 M Competition is still good for some fun in such environments.
This is in spite of its variable-ratio steering, which suffers from a small but noticeable amount of play on-center in Comfort mode yet feels artificially heavy when switched to its Sport and Sport Plus settings. The brake pedal is far too touchy at lower speeds, too, and it requires a delicate touch to prevent the calipers from biting too hard on the 15.6-inch front and 14.6-inch rear rotors. Once the brake system starts to build some heat, though, the pedal action becomes more progressive.
The X4 M Competition’s big brakes proved plenty capable at the track, working with the summer rubber to bring the SUV to a halt from 70 mph in a fade-free 154 feet—a figure equal to that of a 2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing, albeit 7 feet longer than the 147-foot showing of the 2020 X4 M Competition.
Although its fastback roofline and long rear overhang give it awkward proportions (something the integrated roof rails further exacerbate), the X4 M’s exterior revisions markedly improve the model’s looks. Credit 0.4-inch-slimmer headlights, reworked front and rear fascias with gloss-black finishes, and a revised kidney-grille design that’s less porcine. Even so, we much prefer the boxier style of the mechanically identical X3 M, which has the benefit of a more harmonic rear-end design that affords it an additional five cubic feet of cargo space.
Accompanying the X4 M’s exterior changes is an interior that includes a revised dashboard fit with a 12.3-inch touchscreen display—2.0 inches larger than the prior unit—running BMW’s latest iDrive infotainment setup and a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster with a revamped user interface. Additionally, the cabin features new climate controls and an updated center console that houses the start/stop button and various drive mode-related controls. Although the transmission gets a new shift lever, the console-mounted unit continues to operate in a somewhat confusing manner, with reverse located up and to the left of the lever’s default position.
Some active safety equipment, like blind-spot monitors and a lane-departure warning system, are standard on the X4 M. However, adaptive cruise control and lane centering are optional, part of the $1700 Driving Assistance Professional package—an extra our $86,345 test vehicle did without. We feel these items ought to come standard on a vehicle this pricey.
Heated front seats are also missing from the standard features list. BMW bundles those into the $2250 Executive package, which includes a heated steering wheel, heated rear outboard seats, a head-up display, a 360-degree camera system, automatic parking capabilities, and kitschy and middlingly reliable gesture controls for the infotainment setup.
Yet, it’s this performance-focused X4’s harsh suspension setup that infuriated us most. Though the adaptive dampers offer three modes to choose from (Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus), none of those settings notably improves the compliance of the X4 M Competition’s suspension on rough roads. If you didn’t have a favorite chiropractor before climbing into the X4, you’ll be looking for one by the time you get out.
We’d argue that BMW’s M division should take its SUVs in a completely different direction from its cars. The X4 M Competition really doesn’t need to channel the energy of a track-focused sports car. Instead, it ought to carve its own identity as, say, a rally-inspired SUV: a vehicle capable of holding its own on pavement but one that really hits its stride on dusty gravel and dirt roads. As the Ford F-150 Raptor and its ilk demonstrate, thrilling performance and compliant suspension aren’t mutually exclusive.
That said, we’d also settle for an X4 M that largely follows the template of the current SUV, but trades the unyielding suspension tuning for a more forgiving setup. Because if shaving milliseconds from your lap times is your top priority, then your interests are better served by the M3 and M4. Or, another idea: Go with the better-riding (and roughly $23,000 less expensive) X3 M40i, then use its 4400-pound tow rating to pull a nice caged E30 to your favorite road courses. You won’t hit 60 mph quite as quick, but you’ll be a lot more comfortable getting there.
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