Editors' First Take

If you needed a sign that the booming crossover SUV market has reached full maturity, just look at the number of niche variants splitting the difference between established models. While new entrants like the Mercedes-Benz GLB and the BMW X2 fill alphanumeric gaps, special flavors like these latest M-branded BMW X machines make it clear that the tall-car performance wars are well under way.

In Competition trim, the new BMW X3 M and X4 M produce a whopping 503 horsepower. That just so happens to be within a hair's breadth of both the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio and exactly the same as the Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S -- either a curious case of cross-brand collusion or the world's greatest coincidence. How does the BMW stack up on the road and on the track? Let's start with a look under the hood.

Source of the power

We've certainly seen and driven the new BMW X3 before, most recently in plug-in xDrive30e trim, where we found it to be both engaging and efficient. But it's safe to say we've never see it like this. Under the hood, BMW has given one heck of a heart transplant, a 3.0-liter inline six making 473 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque. Step up to the Competition model and you get a bonus 30 ponies, plus bigger wheels (21s vs. 20-inchers) and a few other visual upgrades.

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