There's a lot to love about BMW's red-hot X4, but compromises in ride comfort make it a difficult crossover to live with.
I'll say it up front: The 2022 BMW X4 M Competition is not my cup of tea. But if you've got a bit of a masochistic streak, it could be yours. There are parts of this package that I like -- the monstrous, turbocharged powertrain and BMW's excellent cabin tech come to mind -- but the experience is spoiled by massive compromises in ride comfort and cabin capacity in the name of bringing M-level performance and a sport-coupe aesthetic to a tall SUV chassis.
BMW's 3.0-liter M TwinPower Turbo inline-six is the standard X4 M's beating heart, pouring 473 horsepower and 457 pound-feet of torque through a standard eight-speed automatic transmission and xDrive all-wheel drive with a performance-oriented M Sport rear differential. The addition of this model's $7,000 Competition package brings 30 more ponies to the party. Peak torque also climbs to 479 lb-ft. So equipped, BMW's SUV will launch from 0 to 60 mph in a factory-estimated 3.7 seconds -- only two-tenths of a tick quicker than the standard X4 M's 3.9-second sprint, but also a good deal louder thanks to a valved M Sport exhaust that opens up in its Sport mode.
The X4 M stops as good as it goes thanks to BMW M brakes, which can be had with black, red or blue calipers. The four-piston front units and single-piston rears grab their respective rotors with grippy M Compound pads, shaving off speed quickly and consistently while also being easy to modulate.
My example is also equipped with the M Driver's Package, which raises the X4 M's top speed from 155 mph to 177 mph -- something you'd only really be able to take advantage of on a track. The M Driver's Package includes a one-day high-performance driving class at a BMW Performance Center to help get drivers safely started down that road. This $2,500 upgrade is probably the most easily skippable option; the X4 M certainly has race track chops (at least by SUV standards), but most drivers probably aren't shopping in this class for something to track regularly.
On the road, the EPA estimates this low-slung SUV will cruise at 15 mpg city, 20 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined with a light right foot. Spending most of my testing on curvy, hilly Northern California roads left my average near the low end of that spectrum, finishing at 15.5 mpg for the week -- not especially impressive, but fuel economy probably isn't near the top of a 500-hp SUV shopper's hierarchy of needs.
The X4 M rides on BMW's Adaptive M Suspension, which allows drivers to adjust ride firmness with the touch of a button. In practice, however, the stiff suspension settings required to make a top-heavy SUV handle like a true sports car mean that the ride is ridiculously firm. It's too firm, in fact, occasionally skipping over midcorner bumps often found on remote, twisty roads in a manner that's not just uncomfortable, but also just a touch scary. The various traction control and M Sport differential systems do a good enough job of making sure the X4 M doesn't step too far out of line, but it'll discourage you from really exploring the SUV's handling limits.
Like the rest of the current crop of M cars, the X4 M features multiple drive modes that adjust the performance of the suspension, throttle, all-wheel-drive parameters and transmission. And also like its siblings, it has just too many overlapping modes to choose from, which leads to confusion when trying to dial in the settings you need. Fortunately, the X4 M also features M1 and M2 paddles on the steering wheel that can be customized (while parked) to quickly toggle to your specific favorite presets while driving.
Even at its softest street setting, however, the X4 M is punishing over bumps and potholes, jostling passengers in their seats and delivering a generally unpleasant experience. Even the M4 Competition Coupe and Convertible are more compliant and comfortable around town.
The Competition spec replaces the exterior chrome brightwork with dark Shadowline trim for the badges and grille and also upsizes from the X4 M's standard 20-inch wheels to larger 21-inch M Double-spoke wheels shod with 225/40ZR21 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S performance tires up front and wider 265/40ZR21s at the rear. The larger rim and shorter sidewalls boost the SUV's agility at the notable expense of ride quality.
The X4 M's coupelike roofline eats into cabin and cargo space. There's about an inch less backseat headroom when compared with the near-identical, more upright X3 M and, strangely, legroom is down to 35.5 inches versus 36.4 inches despite an identical 112.8-inch wheelbase. My guess is that BMW's engineers adjusted the angle of the X4's rear seat to compensate somewhat for the roofline at the cost of space for knees. The X4 M also measures 1.5 inches longer from nose to tail thanks to a slightly longer rear overhang, yet it comes up a whopping 10 cubic feet short -- 18.5 cubes versus 28.7 -- compared with the X3 M. (That rear capacity grows to 50.5 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.)
In its defense, X4 M drivers can brag that their 4,597-pound SUV is 13 pounds lighter than the 4,610 pound X3 M. This crossover also boasts a slightly lower center of mass and, according to BMW, a perfect 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution that's slightly better than the X3 M's 50.1/49.9 -- not that any of that makes a measurable difference on the road.
Visibility only suffers a bit at the rear corners due to the X4 M's thicker D pillars, which is somewhat compensated for with the standard blind-spot monitoring and optional upgraded camera system. Meanwhile, the forward view is still excellent and mostly identical to the X3's.
Of course, the X4 exists to court SUV shoppers willing to sacrifice a bit of utility for coupe-inspired style -- customers, I should add, who almost certainly don't care about a little less room in the back seat -- but even that's a tough pill for me to swallow considering the M3 sedan has a second row with comparable head- and legroom and a trunk that's still plenty capacious at 13 cubic feet. It's more agile and comfortable to boot.
A 12.3-inch Live Cockpit Pro digital instrument cluster and a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system running BMW's latest iDrive 7 software share display duties on the X4 M's dashboard. Onboard navigation is standard, but drivers can also cast their navigation app of choice to the main screen via standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay with wireless or USB-A connectivity. There are also USB Type-C ports for charging located in the center console and on the second row.
The most natural way to navigate the infotainment menus is with the physical iDrive controller on the center console, but you can also interact via touchscreen, gestures or voice commands with "Hey, BMW" hotword detection. Whatever the method, the system is a delight to use, with logically organized menus and snappy performance.
The X4 M also comes standard with BMW's ConnectedDrive Services and the Connected Package Pro, which adds subscription-based telematics features like Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity, concierge and emergency services access built into the infotainment suite and integration with the BMW app.
There are no surprises in the safety tech department, with the X4 M rolling out with a solid suite of standard driver aid technologies that are in line with what you get elsewhere in BMW's lineup. This includes BMW's Active Driving Assistant forward-collision warning tech, blind-spot monitoring and lane-departure warning, in addition to the federally mandated standard rear camera.
This example's $2,250 Executive package upgrades the camera to a 360-degree surround-view system and adds a head-up display that projects speed, navigation and other helpful information onto the windshield.
As tested, I did not have the $1,700 Driving Assistance Professional package that enhances the driver aid suite with active intervention capabilities including lane-centering steering assist, lane-change assist, automatic emergency braking and evasive steering assist. Many of these features now come standard on vehicles that are much less expensive, so it's a bit of a bummer to have to pay extra for them, but nickel-and-dime options are sort of par for this European luxury course. The Driving Assistance Pro package also adds BMW's Extended Traffic Jam Assistant, a partially automated steering assist technology that permits hands-free operation on specific approved highways at speeds below 40 mph.
The 2022 BMW X4 M starts at $74,395 including the requisite $995 destination charge. Loaded up with the Competition, Executive and M Driver's package upgrades -- as well as $4,500 for BMW Individual Malachite Green Metallic paint and Tartufo extended Merino leather interior -- my example has a $90,645 price tag.
Shoppers planning to spend more time on public roads than closed racing courses would get more use out of checking the box for Driving Assistance Professional rather than the M Driver's package. They'd also probably be better served by stepping down to the X4 M40i, which still boasts plenty of power -- 382 hp -- and a much more comfortable ride while also being around $20,000 less expensive fully loaded. Audi's SQ5 Sportback and the Mercedes-AMG GLC43 Coupe are also compelling alternatives, stepping down a performance and price tier while being much easier to live with daily.
If you're into coupeover style, the X4 M is a handsome set of wheels and BMW's cabin and safety tech is perhaps the best it's ever been. Plus, it's darn impressive that BMW has imbued this chunky SUV with the soul and agility of a proper M car. There's a good deal to like about the 2022 BMW X4 M Competition, but -- thanks to its abusive relationship with my spine -- I don't love it.