Like them or not, performance SUVs are growing in popularity.
And not to let any clip of sales get away from it, BMW will be the next manufacturer to enter the fast compact SUV market with a red-hot performance version of its X4.
It won’t be warmed over with simple go-fast parts, M Performance style, either. How do we know? Clues come from leaked pictures on Autocosmos.com, who snapped the swoopy SUV in what looks like production-spec during a visit to BMW's American Spartanburg factory.
While an X3 tuned by M Performance wears the badge “M40i” to separate it from the ilk of Munich’s finely crafted performance machines that feature racetrack-bred drivetrains and suspension, this X4 had “M” slapped on its rump next to its model name, just like the bonkers X5 M and X6 M.
The picture clarifies what we’ve seen running around Germany’s Nürburgring Nordschleife recently, too. Videos have shown an X4 heavily clad in camouflage charging at apexes, tyres squealing, and exhausting blaring with a note that sounds suspiciously similar to one produced by the M3’s inline-six.
To draw similarities between that car and the one pictured here, both use identical exhaust tip arrangements. Nosing out from the spied 'X4 M's' rear bumper are four large exhaust pipes, just like all of BMW’s M cars.
The fact BMW’s Spartanburg factory in North Carolina exclusively builds the brand’s SUVs lessens the chance this is some one-off knock up creation, as well. This is the heartland of X4 production.
Other from the unique body treatments to the front guards, rear bumper and roof that we can see, we don’t know much else at the moment in the way of specs and figures. It’s rumoured that the X4 M will adopt the next turbocharged inline-six to power later versions of the M3/M4.
It’s also believed that it’ll come matched to an eight-speed auto, as it’s reported that a dual-clutch won’t adapt to a transfer case for all-wheel drive.
One thing we can be certain about is it’ll have to flog the X3 M40i on performance figures, which are pegged at 265kW and 500Nm. Fans of its more upright sibling will be glad to know an X3 M equivalent is also planned to help the X4 take the fight to Mercedes-AMGs compact brawlers on stilts. They’ll be joined by Audi’s updated RS Q3 in 2020.
Also at the Nordschleife: Audi RS Q3 spied
The X3 and X4 M are reported to be unveiled within the next year. Meanwhile, the regular new X4 is reported to be launch in the third quarter of 2018.
Image source: Autocosmos