Witness an M3-powered SUV while in the making.

Exactly one week ago, BMW X3 project leader, Arno Keller, talked to the press gathered at the Frankfurt Motor Show about the possibility of a fully fledged M version. The X3 M is officially under consideration and now our spies have caught what seems to be a prototype of the high-performance SUV while hitting the Nürburgring gym for a fast-paced testing session. At a first glance, this may look like a fairly standard M40i, but there are some changes here and there that betray the model’s true identity.

Let’s begin with the most obvious. The back of the car contains a quad exhaust setup and a redesigned bumper to accommodate the newly gained two extra tips lending the X3 M a menacing look in line with its bigger brothers, the X5 M and X6 M. The camouflage applied by BMW on the roof-mounted spoiler suggests some changes have been made there as well, though frankly it appears to be virtually the same as the one you get on the M40i.

The side profile hasn’t gone through any changes as far as the body panels are concerned, but the test vehicle was riding visibly lower than the lesser versions of the vast X3 range. That’s a sign of a stiffer suspension setup as you would come to expect from an M car, regardless of its body style. In addition, those big alloy wheels were wrapped in fatter tires.

Moving at the front of the prototype, only the bumper is wearing mascara to hide what could possibly be bigger air vents necessary to cool down the stronger engine lurking underneath the hood. Bear in mind the X3 M is likely in an early testing phase, so there’s a good chance this particular vehicle did not have all of the final bits and bobs. We are expecting some other changes, such as beefier wheel arches.

Word on the street says the X3 M will borrow the straight-six 3.0-liter turbo engine from the M3 and M4 dialed to approximately 430 hp. The significant amount of extra power compared to the M40i will lower the time needed to reach 60 mph (96 kph), which stands at 4.6 seconds for the current range topper. BMW will likely loosen up the electronic top speed limiter to enable the hottest X3 of them all go beyond the 155 mph (250 kph) achieved by the M40i.

Considering the latest X3 was introduced roughly three months ago, it will take a while until BMW will launch the crown jewel of the range. As such, the full-on M model will likely arrive in the latter half of 2018, at the earliest. When it will hit the streets, it will have to face competition coming from the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 and the yet-to-be-revealed Audi RS Q5.

Photos: Automedia, CarPix

Gallery: 2019 BMW X3 M spy photos

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