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A prototype of what could be the first-ever BMW X3 M has been spied testing in Germany this week.

Following the images of the regular new 2017 BMW X3 snapped last week, a beefed-up, M-fettled variant of the next-generation SUV has been spotted for the first time.

Set to compete with the Porsche Macan, Mercedes-AMG GLC and rumoured Audi RS Q5 when it goes on sale, the X3 M prototype pictured sports a more aggressive front bumper with large air intakes, side skirts, rear diffuser, roof spoiler, larger brakes and wheels along with quad exhaust pipes.

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This is the first time the mid-sized X3 SUV will spawn a proper M-division variant, further expanding the Bavarian brand’s go-fast SUV range that already includes the larger X5 M and X6 M.

It isn’t the first time the idea of an X3 M has been toyed with, however, as rumours of a performance variant – albeit for the current-generation X3 – have been circulating since 2010.

The new third-generation X3 will use a version of the modular rear-wheel-drive platform that already underpins the new 7 Series limousine, which will soon underpin everything from the next-generation 3 Series to the 7 Series, and the X3 to the upcoming X7 SUVs.

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Aimed at saving weight, improving fuel economy and increasing performance, the new platform uses lightweight materials including aluminium, high-strength steel and carbon-fibre.

However, considering the more affordable nature of the X3, it is likely that BMW will use less carbon-fibre in its construction, and for other smaller, more affordable models that will utilise the new architecture.

What isn’t known is what will power the new X3 M, although we could see it gain the stonking 317kW/550Nm twin-turbocharged six-cylinder that drives its M3 and M4 stablemates.

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The X3 M’s release is likely to follow that of the regular X3 range – which should debut either later this year or early next – so don’t expect to see it until at least late-2017. It’s also believed that an X4 M will follow afterwards.

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