BMW M strays further from its heritage with X3 M and X4 M crossovers

BMW’s M division has built some of the greatest performance cars of all time, from the E30 M3 to the V10-powered E60 M5. M division cars used to be memorable and distinctive, but now BMW seems more focused on quantity over quality. Like rival Mercedes-Benz and its AMG division, BMW is trying to fill every niche with an M car. The latest vehicles to get the M treatment are the X3 and X4 crossovers.

Normally, automakers try to hide their camouflaged prototypes, but BMW rolled out its X3 M and X4 M for all the world to see during a race at Germany’s Nürburgring. The two performance crossovers will lose their disguises and get a full public unveiling at a later date.

BMW has offered M performance versions of the larger X5 and X6 for a while, so it was only a matter of time before the X3 and X4 got the same treatment. For those unfamiliar with BMW’s labyrinthine lineup, the X3 is a traditional small crossover competing with models like the Mercedes-Benz GLC and Audi Q5. The X4 is a “coupe” version of the X3, with a lower roofline that’s meant to give it a sportier, more stylish look. Whether the X4 succeeds in that mission is unclear.

Technical details are scarce, but BMW did say that the X3 M and X4 M will use a turbocharged inline-six engine. This will likely be based on the 3.0-liter engine used in current M40i versions of the X3 and X4. Both models will get standard all-wheel drive, incorporating lessons learned from the latest M5, according to BMW. Sportier suspension and BMW’s Active M rear differential will be part of the package as well.

The X3 M and X4 M probably won’t do BMW any favors with enthusiasts, but given the public’s insatiable demand for utility vehicles, they’ll probably sell like hotcakes. BMW certainly sees a future in utility vehicles, as it’s adding more variants to its lineup. In addition to the two new M variants, the German automaker recently announced the X2 M235i xDrive and X5 xDrive 45e iPerformance plug-in hybrid.

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