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      08-03-2020, 05:14 PM   #1
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X3M visits the Tail of the Dragon. Is this the perfect Mountain carving machine?

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Hello Bimmerpost! Thanks for taking a moment to read through my Review of the X3M. If you have the time I’d like to invite you to hear my thoughts on the X3M from a true driving enthusiast perspective and help everyone understand why the X3M exists and how it caters to a market I didn’t realize existed until I experienced it for myself.






To give you a little back ground on myself. I grew up in the mountains and I enjoy going to the Tail of the Dragon, and it’s amazing surrounding roads, for vacation usually once or twice a year and have been going since 2002. Being behind the wheel is my happy place and my choice in cars has always reflected that. As such I have always bought cars which have excellent driving feel, feedback and performance. I like cars which are Raw and focus on fun over luxury. I am perfectly happy listening to engine with the radio off and feeling the road beneath me.



I own a boosted S2000, which I have taken to the dragon many times when it was Rotrex supercharged with 355whp. As those who know, the S2000 is driver focused to a fault, it’s a fantastic handling machine and with the supercharger it made it the perfect car for fun in the mountains.



I also own a built Lancer Evolution 9 known as the Evil IX. It is my purpose built autoX and Tail of the Dragon machine with Ohlin suspension, and 440whp. A perfect balance of handing, awd traction and power for the mountains. I have always brought the s2000 and Evo up to the Dragon with race tires, as it helps provide that extra safety margin when driving briskly.



My most recent daily driver was a Dinan tuned M240i 6 speed. I set this car up with using the factory Michelin Pilot super sports 245 square to help improve turn in bite and eliminate understeer. I opted for the M performance LSD to put the power down, Dinan lowering springs, Dinan intake, Dinan Stage 1 tune and the Dinan full cat back exhaust, which all sang together to the tune of 390whp. All my cars have been modified and designed for performance in mind. The M240i was my first new car, and only checked the boxes which made the car faster, with no extra fluff. I even deleted the moonroof in the pursuit of the ultimate drivers car. While I enjoyed the M240 as a daily, ultimately I turned in the Dinan M240i for the X3M and haven’t looked back. When I returned the M240i back to stock. It was a shocking difference, the Dinan mods really made that car a fantastic machine, it felt numb by comparison returned to stock.



I prefer cars that are Raw and focus on the driving experience. The X3M fits this perfectly. Of course, I can’t leave anything alone and always modify my cars to my specific liking. Usually, There is always something I feel like I need to change to make the car feel just right. Honestly, the X3M is the first car which I honestly don’t feel like I need to change anything with the suspension. It’s that good. Of course because I can’t leave anything alone, I do plan on doing the Dinan Exhaust and a tune here soon. Because the stock exhaust is a hair tame and who doesn’t want more power? It’s part of why I chose to go with the X3M base over the Competition model. I planned ahead to modify it.



After driving the X3M in the mountains, I am now presented with a dilemma. A question that I never thought possible. Next time do I bring the X3M or the purpose built Evo?



The simple fact that this question exists, should put things in perspective on how great the X3M performs in the mountains. This shouldn’t be possible, yet here we are. The X3M can comfortably carry all the camping gear, provide navigation, heated seats, and the beautiful leather and carbon fiber interior that only M cars can provide. The X3M reshapes the reality of what a vehicle is capable of and I swear I am not fluffing this car up. It’s really that good. I implore you, if you take an X3M for a test drive, please try and find some twisty roads. Because simply blasting it, and feeling the S58 power in a straight line along with the ‘harshness’ of the suspension as you drive in traffic around the dealership, will leave you far disconnected on what the X3M truly is. You will completely miss the point of this car simply driving it around the block and it’s no wonder so many reviews say the suspension is harsh and bumpy. You have to experience the X3M in its true element to understand why the suspension feels like it does.



This car is for the driving enthusiast. Someone who likes the Raw Feeling of an M, and yet can still enjoy peaceful quiet with the windows up or even enjoy music on the fantastic sound system. The suspension feels perfect to me because I am used to hard suspension like on the Lancer Evo, or my S2000 on KW v3 coil overs. However, While the X3M suspension feels hard driving around the block during day to day traffic, when driving it full tilt on the SCCA hillclimb road's extremely harsh and very uneven tarmac, the X3M's dampers really come to life and show their true purpose. The road seems like it was paved straight over the forest with no regards to smoothness, the road is very old and the tarmac is more like solid gravel than asphalt. It sails through the uneven surface, and it doesn't rattle your teeth out like you would expect from a 'hard' suspension. I remember distinctly this same road in the M240i felt much more hash than it did in the X3M. The X3M’s ability to control the weight transfer while cornering is incredible, and it feels exactly how I expect a fun car to feel. How exactly does the X3M perform in the mountains? I can tell you shockingly enough that the X3M is the first car I brought up to the dragon which I didn’t feel like I had to hold back because the car couldn’t do it. And that is saying something because I can almost always find the limit. The X3M feels unstoppable, with an insatiable thirst for speed.



At no point did the X3M show any disadvantage or issue despite its heft. The S2000’s brakes would overheat, the EVO needed better tires and some suspension work to really make it sing and rotate how I wanted. The M240 easily overheated the factory tires and got squirmy. I could really feel the extra weight of the M240 over the Evo and S2000. The X3M however, as shocking as this is to say. I couldn’t feel the weight, despite the fact it is 1600lbs heavier than my EVO and 1100 lbs heavier than my M240i. At no point did I feel like the X3M had any disadvantage. The X3M just feels solid and planted. The Suspension In sport Plus did an incredible job handing the uneven undulations of the SCCA Hillclimb Road’s rough pavement. The Brakes never faded, even after being late braked deep into hairpins on Happy Valley Road. The steering was incredibly sharp and reminded me of the EVO on the rapid switch backs on the smooth narrow roads above Fontana Village.




Keep in mind however, that driving in the mountains is very different experience than racing on a road course. Mountain roads have rapid banked switch backs, constant undulations in the pavement and the tarmac surface can change from moment to moment and you might even have to dodge a pothole or two. The X3M suspension handled it all with incredible mind bending precision. An SUV that handles like this shouldn’t exist, yet it does. Now, don’t misunderstand me. Obviously, my other cars would handily beat the X3M on a road course, as they are indeed faster cars, but within the limits of my sanity on the mountain backroads, the X3M performed impressively well. The Simple fact I was able to drive how I enjoy driving, without holding back is monumentally impressive.



Honestly, I feel like the X3M couldn’t exist without it’s M Sport All wheel drive system. It worked with mind bending precision and could be felt helping the SUV rotate through the turns under throttle. No hint of understeer, even late braking hard into a hair pin, the AWD system feels like the hand of God is coming down to rotate the car incredibly sharply. Even my Evo can’t do that with such precision. The brakes handled the repeated hard braking with ease, reminiscent of Captain America. “I can do this all day.”



The tires never once protested with what I asked them to do. They moved this 4600 lb SUV with ease, maintaining temperatures in the mid 150s in 95 degree heat, for comparison My Evo would be near 200 during an autoX and I would also see mid 150s in the mountains. What is really neat is that the tire psi system is capable of suggesting the correct tire psi based on tire temperature and target driving speed. I had mine set to the over 100mph setting. Under normal highway driving the tires are around 115 degrees on average.

The S58 engine is another monument of achievement. As I blasted up the SCCA hillclimb road the engine temp stayed as steady as it did on the way home on the interstate in the rain. The power delivery is excellent and the transmissions shifts in S3 are sharp, I did feel like D3 would not quite hold the right gear coming out of hairpins, so I opted to manually shift instead. While D3 works fantastic for straight line acceleration, I did feel like manually shifting in S3 was the best way to enjoy the X3M in the mountains. An interesting note for those who are curious, I got a staggering 7.4 mpg while having fun and a solid 25.9 mpg on the high on the way home. Not bad at all I say!




Of course the X3M experience isn’t all about the engine and suspension. The panoramic sunroof is sure to impress, especially when you open the shade for the first time and it keeps going and going, My rear passengers were in awe. It was wonderful to have heated rear seats as rear passengers loved that along with the independent rear heat/ac controls.

The convenience feature which has very much impressed me is the active cruise control. Honestly, I had never used cruise control much in my other cars, because of the constant adjustments needed for traffic flow. The active cruise control handles this amazingly, even slowing down and starting again from a stop in heavy interstate traffic. I wouldn’t have to touch the gas or brake at all while following my caravan of friends on the way home. Even, the lane keep assist is handy with a simple on/off switch, which although it’s not exactly auto-pilot it does help take the wheel for you if you have to take your hands off the wheel for a few seconds. Even the blindspot system works great and the collision mitigation system saved me at least once when I didn’t see a car coming while reversing. A warning alerted me and applied the brakes. I will say one thing that is interesting with the safety system, if you have the windows down and do a full hard stop and engage the ABS the car apparently thinks you are about to die and it rolls up the windows very rapidly. Apparently this is a BMW thing, But I can see this being annoying on a road course, but honestly I don’t think the X3M will ever see an actual race track. So perhaps if this feature is present on the M3 it might be intrusive.



Surely by now you are thinking. The X3M can’t be perfect. There must be something I don’t like. Honestly truth be told I love almost everything about this car. I can say I am very glad I went with the M Sport Seats, because I very much dislike the standard seats. “Comfort” Is subjective, and plush soft seats like the 5 or 7 series feel foreign to me. The Standard X3M seats are blah to me. Another complaint is the Apple Car play is quite buggy, I don’t know if it should attribute this to poor connection, my phone or the car. The wireless charging is also worthless, and provides more heat than it does power to my iPhone X, but I suppose it’s better than nothing. I end up using my charging cable instead.

I hope this helps those who are interested in either buying an X3M or own one and are curious how the X3M will perform in the mountains. IMO this is the ideal environment for this car. If I ever had any doubt the X3M had a place in my Stable of 500 hp cars, that doubt is now gone. Honestly, I plan to use the X3M to tow the EVO to track days and I secretly hope the EVO has a mishap so I have no choice but to put the X3M on the track. I think that would be hilarious to flex the tow vehicle on a track day and actually do well.

In summary.
-An SUV shouldn't be able to be this fast in the mountains, But it is.
-If you never drive this in the mountains, you'll miss the whole point of the X3M
-You could take your RaceCar, but the temptation to bring the X3M instead is strong.

-Kenneth


*****FUN UPDATE!**** X3M Returns to the Dragon with an M2 and M240i (includes videos and photos)
https://x3.xbimmers.com/forums/showp...6&postcount=81

Last edited by GrandMasterKhan; 11-03-2020 at 08:39 AM.. Reason: i am a speling master.
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      08-03-2020, 05:33 PM   #2
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Thank you for sharing, Kenneth - an interesting and enjoyable read with great images!

We are really enjoying our X3MCs as well, with about 15K combined miles on the odometers, and we share many of your thoughts. We would differ a bit on the panoramic moon roof option - ordered mine without it, but my wife's was on a lot so had to get it. We've never used it, and from our perspective we don't need that extra weight on top, but it is an option for those who wish to have that experience.

Thanks again for sharing your experience with us.

Last edited by Max Well; 08-04-2020 at 01:41 AM.. Reason: Shortened by removing quote
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      08-03-2020, 05:51 PM   #3
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Great write up and very cool set of cars! Glad to see others wringing out the fun and capability of these cars. I took mine into the San Juan islands here in the PNW and threw it around a bunch of corners this weekend too. This was after I drove wife, dog, weekend gear, and two bikes on the back to the house. Such a great M car!
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      08-03-2020, 06:10 PM   #4
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Great write up and very cool set of cars! Glad to see others wringing out the fun and capability of these cars. I took mine into the San Juan islands here in the PNW and threw it around a bunch of corners this weekend too. This was after I drove wife, dog, weekend gear, and two bikes on the back to the house. Such a great M car!
Iím so glad to hear you are enjoying it! The San Juan islands must have been incredible. What an awesome experience!
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      08-03-2020, 06:14 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Max Well View Post
Thank you for sharing, Kenneth - an interesting and enjoyable read with great images!

We are really enjoying our X3MCs as well, with about 15K combined miles on the odometers, and we share many of your thoughts which I included as excerpts above. We would differ a bit on the panoramic moon roof option - ordered mine without it, but my wife's was on a lot so had to get it. We've never used it, and from our perspective we don't need that extra weight on top, but it is an option for those who wish to have that experience.

Thanks again for sharing your experience with us.
I totally get that. The pursuit of performance is the main reason I deleted the sunroof on my M240i, but with the X3M I honestly didnít expect this level of performance when I bought it so I opted for the oohhh ahhhhh huge moon roof because itís incredibly beautiful.

Now I am honestly curious how an X3M comp w/o a Moon roof would perform on the Tail of the Dragon. It really makes me wonder how the comp package with the extra power and sway bars would feel. Could it be that much more impressive? I would be in awe!
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      08-03-2020, 07:40 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GrandMasterKhan View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Max Well View Post
Thank you for sharing, Kenneth - an interesting and enjoyable read with great images!

We are really enjoying our X3MCs as well, with about 15K combined miles on the odometers, and we share many of your thoughts which I included as excerpts above. We would differ a bit on the panoramic moon roof option - ordered mine without it, but my wife's was on a lot so had to get it. We've never used it, and from our perspective we don't need that extra weight on top, but it is an option for those who wish to have that experience.

Thanks again for sharing your experience with us.
I totally get that. The pursuit of performance is the main reason I deleted the sunroof on my M240i, but with the X3M I honestly didn’t expect this level of performance when I bought it so I opted for the oohhh ahhhhh huge moon roof because it’s incredibly beautiful.

Now I am honestly curious how an X3M comp w/o a Moon roof would perform on the Tail of the Dragon. It really makes me wonder how the comp package with the extra power and sway bars would feel. Could it be that much more impressive? I would be in awe!
7.4 mpg ???
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      08-03-2020, 08:17 PM   #7
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7.4 mpg ???
Haha yeah thatís what happens when you never let off the go pedal.
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      08-04-2020, 11:16 AM   #8
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Nice write up, I enjoyed reading your experiment with the car. What tires were you running on the trail?
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      08-04-2020, 11:44 AM   #9
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Fantastic write up. Read it twice to appreciate all the details.
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      08-04-2020, 01:47 PM   #10
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Nice write up, I enjoyed reading your experiment with the car. What tires were you running on the trail?
Sport Contact 6 on the Comp 21" wheels. Glad you enjoyed it!

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      08-04-2020, 01:50 PM   #11
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Fantastic write up. Read it twice to appreciate all the details.
haha thanks! it was fun to write, I had done a video review while driving with my dash cam but it overwrote it even though i had locked the video.

Speaking of video, As soon as I can i'll upload some video but i fear the quality may not be the best. Guess we will see once my card reader comes in for my phone tomorrow.
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      08-04-2020, 02:15 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GrandMasterKhan View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by ltym5 View Post
Nice write up, I enjoyed reading your experiment with the car. What tires were you running on the trail?
Sport Contact 6 on the Comp 21" wheels. Glad you enjoyed it!

Your tires tell a story. They say you've been giving em the business
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      08-04-2020, 03:04 PM   #13
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Your tires tell a story. They say you've been giving em the business
that's to true! I always pay close attention to the friction circle and how much roll over the tire is experiencing during hard driving. As you can see, the tires did quite well at the recommended PSI for over 100mph.
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      08-04-2020, 05:08 PM   #14
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OP great review. I just got from a trip to upstate NY, second trip this summer and each time I fall in love with the car a little more. I'm coming from an F80 M3 that before the F97 was my favorite car that I've owned and really made me have doubts about being satisfied with an SUV.

Let's forget the fact that I can load two bikes in the back and all my gear for a trip, obviously in practicality it wins hands down. But it's in the joy of driving that I thought I was going to really miss the F80, and I don't, not one bit. This little SUV can go from mild mannered hauler to heart pumping road carving machine. From the highway, to curvy mountain roads and then back & dirt roads it's does it all. With the F80, uneven back roads were a back breaker and forget about taking it on a dirt road. This car is a Swiss Army knife.
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      08-04-2020, 05:36 PM   #15
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Nice review especially from someone with lighter more focused machinery so good to hear this opinion.

It's a cracking car very rear wheel driven (but with added traction) very flat, no bounce as the damping is great once you're up to speed.

Glad to see you're running the CSC6P as some people don't realise what a good tyre it is. I also come from an F80 M3 did 90k miles with the MP HAS kit fitted as well and I find the X3M a joy to drive.
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      08-04-2020, 10:24 PM   #16
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Nice write up.
You are one of the few that using the car as it is intended to be.
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      08-05-2020, 01:24 PM   #17
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Great write up. Thank you for posting.
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      08-05-2020, 01:26 PM   #18
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I'm waiting for lease incentives on the 2021 x3m Comp to pick one up. I'm getting very impatient.
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      08-05-2020, 01:32 PM   #19
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Is an SUV the best carving machine? Are you serious?

Take a walk
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      08-05-2020, 01:43 PM   #20
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I know this is bordering on overly critical but if you say you focus on raw driving experience, and you think an electrically assisted, slushbox automatic, muffled cabin, 2.5 ton SUV fits that description - you really shouldn't be writing any kind of review with sporty intent. It's ok to just say you enjoy the comfort of it and the "sporty feel"

We talked about getting a non comp to replace our aging X1 - which I also hate but she likes - and after taking it through the car and driver 10Best route I was left feeling like I was in an alternate world of boredom compared to reviews we read going into it.

I can't help but think that everyone giving these things (and the 4,5,6 XM) overly glorious reviews is just coping with the fact that they had to get a crossover for some forsaken reason, but really wanted an M2/3/4/5/8 - or they're just professional reviewers being paid by BMW to say nice things about it.

Rant over
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      08-05-2020, 01:48 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by phantom7835 View Post
I know this is bordering on overly critical but if you say you focus on raw driving experience, and you think an electrically assisted, slushbox automatic, muffled cabin, 2.5 ton SUV fits that description - you really shouldn't be writing any kind of review with sporty intent. It's ok to just say you enjoy the comfort of it and the "sporty feel"

We talked about getting a non comp to replace our aging X1 - which I also hate but she likes - and after taking it through the car and driver 10Best route I was left feeling like I was in an alternate world of boredom compared to reviews we read going into it.

I can't help but think that everyone giving these things (and the 4,5,6 XM) overly glorious reviews is just coping with the fact that they had to get a crossover for some forsaken reason, but really wanted an M2/3/4/5/8 - or they're just professional reviewers being paid by BMW to say nice things about it.

Rant over
You seem nice
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      08-05-2020, 01:52 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by evo-mike View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by phantom7835 View Post
I know this is bordering on overly critical but if you say you focus on raw driving experience, and you think an electrically assisted, slushbox automatic, muffled cabin, 2.5 ton SUV fits that description - you really shouldn't be writing any kind of review with sporty intent. It's ok to just say you enjoy the comfort of it and the "sporty feel"

We talked about getting a non comp to replace our aging X1 - which I also hate but she likes - and after taking it through the car and driver 10Best route I was left feeling like I was in an alternate world of boredom compared to reviews we read going into it.

I can't help but think that everyone giving these things (and the 4,5,6 XM) overly glorious reviews is just coping with the fact that they had to get a crossover for some forsaken reason, but really wanted an M2/3/4/5/8 - or they're just professional reviewers being paid by BMW to say nice things about it.

Rant over
You seem nice
I hate crossovers with the white hot passion of a thousand suns.

They are a lazy compromise and 99% of people are better off just buying a proper SUV or a sedan. They bring the illusion of an "all rounder" but in reality are a master of none.

These hyper-crossovers may be fast enough in a straight line and have stiff enough suspension to wow some people - but at the end of the day they're a compromise.
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1998 M3/4/5, Cosmo - scrapped
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