Practical Magic: BMW’s New X4 M

This swoopy-backed sport ute coupe gets the M Performance treatment.

Among the plethora of predictions made by Confucius, the fabled Chinese teacher, philosopher and life-coach, was this little-known one: It’s not possible for tall-riding SUV to drive like sports car.

Yes, the enlightened one was way ahead of his time with a multitude of his observations. But when it came to this, obviously Confucius had never driven a new BMW X4 M.

Until the arrival of this latest X model, I might have agreed with the master. Nothing designed to haul rug-rats and bulky appliances from Best Buy, could ever be as thrilling to drive as a hot, smokin’, red-corpusculed sports car. Just too tall, too bulky, too practical.

Then along comes the 2020 X4 M, a 473-horsepower, slopey-roofed bundle of hyperactive joy that changes everything. Blisteringly quick, able to carve curves like a slot car, it’s guaranteed to put a Julia Roberts-sized smile on your face with every press of the ‘start’ button.

This is the latest creation from BMW’s M performance division. They took the already fun-to-drive X4 coupe-bodied sport ute and sprinkled it with a bucket-load of engineering pixie-dust.

Step One was to give it a clean-sheet design, twin-turbo 3.0-liter in-line six engine. With the aforementioned 473 horseys and a honking 442 pound-feet of torque, this is the most potent in-line six BMW has ever created.

Not enough? Check the box for the M Competition version, and you’ll get an upgrade to a bonkers 503-horsepower.

And the transformation to M-spec doesn’t stop there. The all-wheel-drive X4 M gets BMW’s sensational M Sport active differential with its other-worldly ability to direct the engine’s torque to the rear wheel with the best grip.

Then there’s adaptive M Suspension that lets you treat every curve like the infield at Daytona. And mighty M Compound brakes with pizza-sized 15.6-inch front rotors, that will stop you with the effectiveness of throwing a ship’s anchor out the back.

Add to all this gorgeous new 20-inch alloys shod with super-grippy Michelin Pilot Sport rubberware, plus a new M Sport two-stage exhaust that could wake the dead, and this new X4 is more of a thriller than Michael Jackson.

Drive it like you stole it and it’s just phenomenally fast, blasting off the line and hitting 60mph in 4.1 seconds. And with its 8-speed paddle-shifter automatic from BMW’s M5 super-sedan, the X shifts gears with the immediacy of flicking on a light switch.

Assessing the handling capabilities of something like the new X4 M on Florida’s arrow-straight highways and by-ways is always a challenge.

So BMW kindly flew me to the Monticello Motor Club, in New York’s Catskill mountains, for a morning of hurling the new X4 M, and its boxy X3 M sibling, around this 3.6-mile private track. The experience was illuminating.

The ute’s other-worldy ability to slice through curves at speeds way above my comfort zone, hammer down the main straight at 140mph-plus, and deliver more thrills than a day at Busch Gardens, was simply sensational.

Yet on the rural roads around Monticello, the M could go back into Comfort mode, soak-up blacktop lumps and bumps like Mr. Brawny on kitchen spills, and all with hardly a peep from under the hood. That’s a remarkable duality of capability.

Yes, the X4 M coupe gives up some load space compared to the square-backed X3 M. But its look is definitely sportier and, to my eyes, more in keeping with that M badge.

Of course all this performance technology doesn’t come cheap. Our X4 M tester stickered at $74,395 – or $3,500 more than the square-back X3 M.

But that’s a bargain when you think you’re getting two cars in one; high-performance sport-ute and high-performance sports car. Trust me, Confucius would approve.


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