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A prototype for the anticipated (although yet to be confirmed) BMW X3 M or one-step-down X3 M Performance has been spied again, this time running hot laps around the famed Nurburgring circuit in Germany.

First snapped on the streets of Germany just over a fortnight ago, this beefed-up X3 test mule is shown here being put through its paces on the demanding 20.83-kilometre race track.

The next-generation BMW X3 is likely to make its public debut later this year or early next year, and if this prototype vehicle is any indication, the range will be joined for the first time by a go-fast X3 variant.

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Distinguished from the more tame X3 mule spotted earlier this year, the X3 M features larger air intakes at the front, bigger wheels and brakes, side skirts, rear diffuser, and sporty-looking quad-exhaust pipes.

While not confirmed, an X3 M model would take on the likes of the Porsche Macan, the upcoming Mercedes-AMG GLC63 and the rumoured Audi RS Q5.

Stepping down one level, an X 3 M Performance model would more directly rival the Mercedes-AMG GLC43.

This car would also fill the void at the smaller end of BMW’s M-badged SUV lineup, just beneath the larger – and more powerful – X5 M and X6 M super family haulers.

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As previously reported, the next-generation X3 will ride on a version of BMW’s new modular rear-wheel drive platform that already serves under the new 7 Series limo. The platform will eventually underpin everything from the 3 Series to the 7 Series and X3 to the upcoming X7.

BMW’s new platform saves weight, improves fuel economy and increases performance through the use of lightweight materials including high-strength steel, aluminium and carbon-fibre.

The mystery that still remains is what lives under the bonnet of this new model. If it is a proper M variant, it could use a version of the twin-turbo six that powers its M3 and M4 stablemates.

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However, this is merely speculation, and the X3 M isn’t likely to be revealed until after the regular X3 range, sometime in early to mid 2017.

And, while there have been no prototypes spotted yet, it is believed that the accompanying next-generation X4 coupe range will also be joined for the first time by a powered-up M variant. Expect that model to be a twin-under-the-skin to the X3 M.

Stay tuned to CarAdvice for more updates on the X3 M and X4 M in the coming months.

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