The Porsche Macan’s position as the sole high-performance premium compact crossover will soon be coming to an end. Already threatened by the recently launched Mercedes-AMG GLC 43, there’s more coming the baby Porsche’s way. While an even more potent GLC 63, an Audi RS Q5 and a Jaguar F-Pace SVR loom menacingly in the distant horizon, we just got the first spy shots of a high-performance BMW X3 prototype doing its rounds near Garching, where the brand’s M division is headquartered. With the next generation of the X3 due sometime next year, this is without a doubt a near production-ready development tester for an X3M.

We’ve already seen pictures of the next X3, and this camouflaged test car looks wider and lower, and sports a more aggressive face with large air intakes, larger wheels and beefier brakes. On closer inspection, you can also spot M-spec quad exhaust pipes, which have been deftly disguised as regular dual tips. It also wears two different kinds of wheels, which our photographer says are a “minimum” 20in in size. Apart from these obvious M features, most of the other styling elements look the same as the stock X3’s, such as the larger kidney grille, the sloping roofline and an overall less boxy appearance.

Underpinning the X3M will be the same modular rear-wheel drive platform, dubbed Cluster Architecture, which also forms the basis of the new BMW 7 Series. This carbon fibre reinforced construction will mean significant weight savings and better performance from the powertrain, which is likely to be a turbocharged 3.0-litre inline-six mated to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission and churning out nearly 450bhp. There could also be a lower-spec version of an M-tuned X3, along the lines of the X4 M40i.

More pics and details are sure to emerge as soon as the X3M nears production. Keep coming back to this section for the latest.