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Frankfurt show: BMW close to decision on hi-po X3 M

Step up: The X3 M40i will be the flagship of the range when it arrives, but a more brutal X3 M is expected down the track.

BMW studies ballistic X3 M mid-size performance SUV to take on key German rivals

BMW logo15 Sep 2017

By TIM NICHOLSON in FRANKFURT

BMW is close to making a final decision on a bahn-storming ‘M’ version of its forthcoming X3 mid-size SUV that looks set to go head-to-head with the Mercedes-AMG GLC63, Audi’s SQ5 and other high-performance high-riders.

The German prestige car-maker used the Frankfurt motor show this week to stage the public debut of the third-generation X3, which at launch will be topped by the warmed-over 265kW/500Nm M40i variant.

Speaking with Australian journalists in Frankfurt, BMW X3 product manager Roland Meier said a bona fide X3 M was “under evaluation”.

“It is not confirmed and not pronounced, nothing,” he said. “But it is possible in terms of technology and also in terms of platform.”

BMW X3 project manager Arno Keller added: “We can do it from the architecture … no problem. But if we would do, that is under evaluation.”

Mr Meier said the company was close to making a final decision about whether the M-badged performance SUV gets the production tick of approval, while Mr Keller said there had to be sufficient market demand to invest in a model like an X3 M.

“Even if the competitors are doing things like that, doesn’t mean they earn money with this,” Mr Keller said.

“There are a lot of customers for that. It is a question if is there high demand from the customer side to own these cars, to have these cars, then we will think about that. But if not there is no use to do that.”

It is unclear what engine would be used to power the X3 M, but it could be an uprated version of the 265kW/500Nm 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged inline six-cylinder petrol engine that sits under the bonnet of the X3 M40i.

Mr Meier ruled out the use of a V8 or anything more potent than a six-cylinder engine for a go-fast X3 variant, and when asked if an X3 M powertrain could incorporate hybridisation to assist performance, he added: “It’s a bit too early to speak about that.”

In the likely event that the X3 M gets the green light, it will face off against the Mercedes-AMG GLC63, Audi’s SQ5, the Jaguar F-Pace S, Porsche Macan Turbo and the upcoming Alfa Romeo Stelvio QV.

Mr Meier said that details of the new X3’s coupe-styled X4 twin would be revealed in the next month and suggested that many of the same variants would be offered across both model lines, but gave no comment on an X4 M.

“As you can imagine we have the X3 now on this completely new platform architecture with our technologies and as you can assume that also the X4 will also be on the same one so we have all possibilities, but unfortunately now I can’t tell you too much,” he said.

The X3 range will also be offered from 2020 with a fully electric powertrain and will fall under the company’s iPerformance electrification banner.

Mr Meier said there were two obvious competitors that the X3 was benchmarked against, but that the segment was growing rapidly.

“In this segment we have BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLC. These are the volume models. But then you have now, everybody wants to have something from this cake in this segment,” he said.

“Jaguar, Porsche Macan, Alfa Romeo, several new competitors. We have looked at the detail of all of these competitors and depending on the market, depending on the BMW brand and everything, we have made the BMW package out of this.”

The third-generation X3 line-up will start to roll into Australian showrooms from November this year.

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