A BMW X3 M prototype has been seen thundering around the Nurburgring Nordschleife, clipping apexes, kissing kerbs and generally looking like it’s being hustled impossibly hard. BMW is clearly aiming to inject some bona-fide M car capabilities into its first-ever high-performance midsize SUV.
Through the howling of its front tyres you can hear a distinct straight-six note that suggests there will be significant under-bonnet commonality with its M3 and M4 stablemates, while the front and rear camo can’t hide the enlarged air dams and quad exhausts that are M car hallmarks. It’s unclear what performance metrics are in store for the X3 M, but if it indeed borrows the M3/M4 duo’s S55 twin-turbo 3.0-litre inline six then expect somewhere in the region of 331kW and 550 Nm at the very least.
Don’t, however, expect the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission of those cars to make its way into the first-ever X3 M – it’s understood that BMW’s automated dual-clutch manual isn’t compatible with an AWD transfer case, meaning it’ll likely take power to all four wheels via an eight-speed auto instead.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing considering the driveability advantage a conventional auto holds over a dual-clutch, and the traction provided by AWD could see the X3 M out-sprinting its rear-drive cousins. Case in point: the GLC63 hits triple-digit speeds in just 3.8 seconds, despite weighing over 300kg more than the C63 Estate that does the same feat in 4.1 seconds.
Right now the most potent X3 on sale is the recently-arrived X3 M40i, which packs 3.0-litre straight-six power to the tune of 265kW and 500Nm. It will run to 100km/h in a claimed 4.8 seconds, which leaves plenty of room for a full-fledged M variant above it. When the X3 M will arrive, however, has yet to be communicated, though a global unveiling could occur before year’s end.
Accompanying the hotted-up X3 into BMW showrooms will be an X4 M twin, applying the same mechanical formula in a fastback SUV form factor. Performance numbers should be line-ball between them – as with the rest of the X3 and X4 range, the differences will be largely confined to bodystyle.
Read next: 2018 BMW X3 M40i pricing announced
To get a better understanding of why enthusiasts should be excited about the prospect of an X3 M, flick to page 106 of the July issue of Wheels and you’ll find an extensive test of the Mercedes-AMG GLC63 on some of Tasmania’s most challenging (and visually spectacular) roads. Our man Ryan Lewis was blown away by the sheer breadth of the GLC63’s capability, and it looks like BMW’s offering in the same segment will be a ball-tearer.