BY MARK KEAST

A mid-size SUV that runs like a sports car – the BMW X3 M Competition features a TwinPower Turbo 6-cylinder engine, pushing out 510 HP, with the eight-speed M Steptronic transmission, and the M xDrive all-wheel-drive system to transfer that power to the road. The X3 M also has a version without the extra power – 480 HP (0 to 100 km/h in 4.2 seconds; the Competition hits that in 4.1 seconds). Driving the slick winter roads in and around Toronto means you need a vehicle with solid traction, stability and agility and that’s another difference-maker – the AWD system splits the engine’s power between the four wheels. You want both comfort and peace-of-mind, especially on our highways.

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The vehicle’s precision is influenced heavily by the touch-button chassis technology – the suspension’s dampers are controlled electronically, giving the driver a comfort setting or one that’s sportier, with lower wheel and body movements – as well as the M-specific steering and M compound brakes.

Then there is the sleekness of the exterior design. We found that the X3’s muscular look really set it apart against its brethren while out on the road with it. Confidence is part of the BMW brand. The M Sport exhaust system and the 21-inch M light-alloy wheels are standard on the vehicle. The X3 M Competition’s kidney grill is a design marker, as are features like the bold exterior mirror caps, the M gills in black next to the front wheels and the rear spoiler. Inside is an equal measure of sport and luxury – electrically adjustable sport seating, Vernasca leather upholstery M-specific cockpit and M leather steering wheel (heated too), M gearshift selector lever, Harman-Kardon sound system and SiriusXM Satellite Radio are some of the features.

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One other important note – I drove the vehicle over the Christmas period, which meant transporting a lot of gifts (and hockey equipment on one day). So if you’re making this kind of investment in an SUV you want performance and luxury but you also want practicality. The X3 M Competition is just over 15 feet long, and the size of the cargo space area is a little misleading. Flip the seats down and you might be surprised at the amount of room you have to play with (62.7 cubic feet) – there is lots of luggage capacity. I was surprised, after my initial side view at the vehicle, walking up to it. The floor of the back is flat, so you can easily slide things in and out.

Head here if you want more information on where to go buy or lease one.

PRICE AS TESTED:

2020 X3 M COMPETITION

BASE MSRP: $93,000

PREMIUM PACKAGE: SIDE SUNSHADES, VENTILATED FRONT SEATS, SEAT HEATING, FRONT AND REAR, PARKING ASSISTANT PLUS W/SURROUND VIEW, WIRELESS CHARGING WITH EXTENDED BLUETOOTH AND USB, WIFI HOTSPOT ($3,300)

ADVANCED DRIVER ASSISTANCE PACKAGE: DRIVING ASSISTANT PLUS, STEERING AND LANE CONTROL, EVASION ASSIST, CROSS TRAFFIC ALERT (FRONT), ACTIVE CRUISE CONTROL WITH STOP AND GO, LANE KEEP ASSISTANT ($1,500)

STAND-ALONE OPTIONS: CARBON FIBRE TRIM ($850), AMBIENT AIR PACKAGE ($500)

TOTAL: $99,150

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BMW X3 M