German tuner jolts Bimmer’s performance crossover to life

AC Schnitzer knows its way around BMW models. That knowledge comes in handy when we’re talking about a comprehensive aftermarket program for one of Bimmer’s resident performance crossovers, the X3 M.

You’re probably thinking the same thing. The X3 M already has 510 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque. It doesn’t need more power than what it already has, right? Well, don’t tell that to AC Schnitzer. The German tuner isn’t interested in what’s already there; it’s in the business of imagining what it could become and bringing that scenario to life. The product of all that is this extensive tuning program that not only adds a slew of aerodynamic improvements to the X3 M, but, more importantly, also adds more power to what is already a powerful performance workhorse.

AC Schnitzer hasn’t announced pricing details for the X3 M Competition program, but rest assured, expect to pay somewhere in the vicinity of $20,000 to $30,000 for the program alone.

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Style, meet substance

2020 BMW X3 M Competition by AC Schnitzer Exterior
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The trick in dressing up a model like the BMW X3 M Competition is that more often than not, the visual upgrades have aerodynamic qualities in them, too. It’s like hitting two birds with one stone.

That’s what AC Schnitzer did with the performance crossover. The tuner took out the crossover’s stock front splitter and replaced it with a more aerodynamically friendly piece with more aggressive looks to boot. On the other end of the X3 M Competition, AC Schnitzer didn’t take out the crossover’s stock spoiler, but it fit a rear roof wing into it, improving in no quantitative terms the amount of downforce it generates in the section of the X3 M Competition.

2020 BMW X3 M Competition by AC Schnitzer Exterior
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The result is a more aggressive-looking performance crossover that imbibes the characteristics of a proper AC Schnitzer tune job with matching improvements in how the crossover handles on the road. And if these juicy new exterior parts aren’t enough, the tuner even added a rear skirt protection film and some company decals as part of its package. The latter has no aerodynamic use, but at least we know the aftermarket company that’s responsible for this X3 M Competition tuning program.

Not much in the cabin, but it’s still better than nothing

2020 BMW X3 M and X4 M Unveiled, Brings More Than 500 Ponies In Competition Trim
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Step inside the AC Schnitzer-tuned BMW X3 M and you’re going to find a cabin that’s mostly stock.

That said, AC Schnitzer did throw in a few upgrades for those who are looking for something to call as such. So, if you buy this program, you also stand to receive a few aluminum accessories, including a pedal set with a matching footrest, a key holder, and paddle shifters. The tuner also threw in a Black Line cover for the iDrive controller. They’re not much in the context of what other tuners offer with their programs, but at least it’s better than nothing, right? At the very least, the Black Line cover for the iDrive controller adds aesthetic appeal to this section of the interior.

Power and performance gains for the soul

2020 BMW X3 M and X4 M Unveiled, Brings More Than 500 Ponies In Competition Trim
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In stock form, the 2020 BMW X3 M Competition gets its juice from a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six-cylinder engine.

The unit produces a stout 503 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed ZF automatic transmission transfers all that power to the two rear wheels, allowing the crossover to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.0 seconds.

Top speed is limited to 155 mph, though there is an option to raise that number to 174 mph if you so choose.

2020 BMW X3 M Competition by AC Schnitzer Exterior
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The 2020 X3 M is potent on its own. There’s no doubt about that as the numbers bear fruit. But just because a performance crossover already has enough power to shame the fools that underestimate it, that doesn’t mean there’s no more room for more power for customers who aren’t satisfied with what the stock X3 M Competition has to offer. This is where tuners like AC Schnitzer come in.

Unfortunately, the German tuner didn’t dive into the details of what kind of engine upgrades it provided for the 2020 X3 M Competition. There were no announcements of software tunes or improved engine pieces, only that with these upgrades, AC Schnitzer was able to raise the output of the X3 M Competition’s turbocharged six-cylinder engine to a stouter than stout 591 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque.

Do the math and that adds up to an increase of 88 horsepower and 73 pound-feet of torque.

It’s not a mind-blowing increase in power, but it should be more than enough to satisfy the breakneck urges of X3 M Competition owners. No performance times were given, but expect the X3 M Competition to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in under four seconds with the AC Schnitzer program in tow. Top speed should also rise to somewhere in the vicinity of 186 mph.

Knowing what we know now as far as the results of the upgrades are concerned, it’s to imagine a lot of new hardware went into that engine. This program is most likely a software kit that’s built on an ECU tune and few other supplementary upgrades to the turbocharged six-cylinder engine.

Improved ride and handling, too

2020 BMW X3 M Competition by AC Schnitzer Exterior
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Besides the aforementioned improvements, AC Schnitzer also worked on beefing up the X3 M Competition’s suspension by means of a spring kit that effectively lowers the SUV’s ride height by 0.8 inches in the front and a full inch at the back. It’s an incremental improvement, but that’s the nature of the beast when it comes to suspension upgrades. As infinitesimal as it sounds, these upgrades play big roles in improving the crossover’s handling on the road.

That goes hand-in-hand with the new set of wheels that the tuner is also including in its program. In this case, the BMW X3 Competition now sits on a set of 20-inch AC1 light-alloy wheels finished in either a bi-color or anthracite finish and wrapped in 255/45 R20 tires at the front and 265/45 R20 rubber at the rear.

If you want bigger wheels, you can instead avail of a set of 22-inch AC2 light-alloy wheels in either bi-color or anthracite/black with matching tires measuring 265/35 R22 at the front and 275/35 R22 at the rear.

I like AC Schnitzer’s program, but I’m open to other suggestions

2020 BMW X3 M Competition by AC Schnitzer Exterior
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It’s perfectly within your rights to play the field if you’re looking for upgrades to your vehicle. That holds true for any model, and it certainly holds true for a model like the BMW X3 M Competition. Fellow German tuner Dähler, for example, is offering a similar power and performance-based program for the performance crossover, and the results are more impressive than what AC Schnitzer has to offer, at least if you’re strictly looking at those figures.

With its Stage 1 program — that’s a hint that more stages are coming — Dähler was able to increase the output of the X3 M Competition’s turbocharged six-cylinder unit to an impressive 610 horsepower and 561 pound-feet of torque. That’s 19 more horsepower and 45 pound-feet more torque than what AC Schnitzer has to offer.

Likewise, Dähler is also offering suspension upgrades for the X3 M Competition in the form of a suspension kit.

What’s the damage to my bank account?

2020 BMW X3 M Competition by AC Schnitzer Exterior
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The total cost of the program has yet to be revealed, though if you look past programs of similar ilk that AC Schnitzer has offered, prepare to spend somewhere in the vicinity of $20,000 to $30,000.

That should give you a rough estimate of how much it’s going to cost to have your BMW X3 M experience the AC Schnitzer aftermarket tuning treatment. Mind you, that cost estimate doesn’t include the performance crossover. That’s a separate purchase to the tune of $76,900. Add them all up and you’ll need to shell out roughly $100,000 for the whole thing.

Final Thoughts

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As far as performance crossovers wearing BMW’s famous badge are concerned, the BMW X3 M Competition is the closest thing you can buy to experience BMW’s technical automotive wizardry and the M Division’s sheer lust for power and performance. But like I said, just because you can check those boxes by purchasing the performance crossover, that doesn’t mean you can’t add more boxes to check, especially if you’re the type who enjoys an extra shot of power and performance to go with a few vanity and aerodynamic bits on your crossover.

AC Schnitzer addresses those needs with the expertise of a tuning company that made its bones creating programs for BMW models. You simply can’t do better than AC Schnitzer, even if there are other rival tuners out there that offer similar programs with potentially similar results.

  • Leave it
    • Not much going on in the interior
    • Availability could be an issue
    • Don’t expect it to be cheap
Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert -
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read More
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