2023 BMW XM Review : Mighty Morphy, Xeno Morph
Arizona, USA - The BMW XM is the M car of the future : It’s the most powerful M production car to date, and only the second ‘fully M’ developed machine, after the BMW M1.
It’s also the largest, heaviest, most expensive car M has ever made. Oh and it’s also a plug-in hybrid, and an SUV.
Amidst the screaming of Strange Men who worship non-turbocharged inline six-cylinder engines, there’s a lot to unpack here, obviously. When BMW M first announced the XM we thought it had lost its collective mind, but having driven it, seen it, and sat in it, we’ve come to the realisation that it’s not only pretty interesting, it’s also unique.
But what exactly is the XM?
In essence, it’s an X8 M. The larger-than-X5 SUV we all know, but just as the X6 is the coupe-fied, sporty version of the X5, so is the XM to the X7. That means it’s big - more than five-metres long, and just over two-metres wide. In fact, the front track isn’t far off the total width of a 1 Series.
You can guess that a huge, high-performance SUV is for an ‘extroverted’, high-budget customer base, yes, someone who wants a daily driver for the family, and who otherwise has a super-and-performance oriented car (or ten) in the garage.
The XM looks better in the metal than in photos. While the lights are a straight borrow from the X7, the rest of the car looks substantially M : pronounced fenders, a contoured bonnet, masses of gloss black, aero-optmised parts. We’re only surprised that BMW didn’t give it the tall 4er-style grille (also seen on the iX).
But there is also Other Stuff going on : There’s the geometric pattern motif from BMW’s upper-luxury playbook, which can be seen on the door handles, the front bumper and on the interior. The historical link to the M1 is also shored up in the BMW badges on the rear windscreen (M1 had roundels on the back, remember?) and the black contour line that runs the length of the car.
As a million-dollar car, there will be significant variance in the appearance as you can see here. Size is one clue that half of XM sales are expected to be from the USA and China, but the red paint with gold highlights are a dead giveaway of the latter market’s prominence.
BMW M probably figured, “Hey, if we’re going to make people shell out for a gigantic high-performance SUV, make it a full M car.” As far as colossal, expensive SUVs go, the XM successfully blends athleticism and menace without looking overblown, fat, rounded, whale-esque.
In essence, it’s an X8 M. You have the BMW Widescreen that looks just like the one found on the 7 Series (14.9-inch main display, 12.3-inch driver’s display) but with the graphics and modes updated specially for M.
Our test car came slathered in the expected carbonfibre trim with predominantly red upholstery, but some of the other display units showed luxurious variations - white leather upholstery with brown leather uppers/dash with less CFRP was one example.
Naturally as a million-dollar car, we expect considerable variations to the interior concept depending on individual taste, but the basic technology/ergonomic package is very sound, and we had little trouble getting comfortable and coaxing what we wanted from the system in general.
The rear is where you’ll see and feel the luxe factor continue : The second row seats have a nice wrap-around concept where the cushioning/upholstery extend to the doors and give a lovely, inviting feel. There’s also the M textured roof headliner, which has LED backlighting that shows M colours, or reflects safety/drive system states.
Boot space is generous, but not outstanding at 527 to 1,820-litres, around the same as a large SUV. In the boot there’s also a high-quality duffel bag with a tether, and is probably the nicest example of a charge cable bag we’ve seen to date.
With a three-metre-ish wheelbase, and despite the coupe-styling, the XM is extremely spacious. As mentioned it’s a larger-than-X5 size vehicle, so it could even do VIP-shuttling in a pinch, as long as you restrain yourself from hitting the M buttons and waking the V8.
The key points here are that the XM is the first electrified fully M model (i4 M50 and iX M60 are MPA cars) and also the most powerful M car to date (full production cars, previous record holder is the M5 CS at 635hp).
M’s full-fat 4.4-litre biturbo V8 is the main driver, cranking out 489hp by itself. A 25-ish kWh battery pack resides in the floor of the car, and that juices a 191hp electric motor. The max torque of the latter is 280Nm, but effectively it’s 450Nm because of lower gearing, says BMW M.
We’ll summarise the systems here: There are three modes for the hybrid system (auto, electric only, and retain battery level), and three drive modes (Road, Sport, Track), and a further two, button-enabled M modes (M1 and M2).
At this price we assume the XM will come with every trick in the book, namely adaptive suspension (non-air), massive six-piston brakes, dynamic active roll stabilisation, all-wheel drive, rear M Sport differential for torque vectoring. Through the setup menu, you can diddle the engine, gearbox, sound, suspension, brakes, steering, and more. Another key point : This is the first M car with all-wheel steering.
In suburban Phoenix, the XM feels normal sized, surrounded by massive pickups and ‘full-sized’ SUVs like the Mercedes GLS and Lexus LX. That certainly won’t be the case back home, but at least the XM deals with urban sprawl quite easily.
We didn’t test out e-drive specifically, but slapped it in Hybrid mode and let the car fend for itself. For much of the urban drive, the XM ran on electric power unless we got frisky with the gas pedal. In any case in urbane mode, the V8’s muted voice was drowned out by everything else around it, with no engine less than a litre in sight.
The polar opposite of that is going full-bore on everything (and saving it as the M2 preset), at which point the full-throated roar (some piped in artificially, of course) of the V8 comes to life.
Whatever the holder, M’s 4.4 biturbo power unit has always been volcanic fun, in terms of eruptive power delivery, aural pleasure, and sheer fury. The 2.7-tonne bulk of the XM is helped along by the electric torque, but it’s not violent acceleration, it has that imperious sense of Big Mass Gaining Velocity.
As long as the road remains wide, and clean, the XM is capable of impressive pace, not just because there’s more than enough power on hand, but also because it’s relatively refined and rock-stable at high-speed. An XM would no doubt find a home with those who find the North South Highway a time sink. Yes, it still has that most irritating of performance SUV features : a clunky ride. Engineers haven’t found a way for 22-inch wheels not to ride badly when it comes to small corrugations, and there is obvious tyre roar.
But impressively, there is some finesse to the XM : Steering feel, a nice little tuck into corner entry, and if you’re braver than us, you could get this monster to do the B-road tap-dance quite convincingly. That’s one of the things which M’s SUVs have never impressed on us before - they’ve plenty of power, and that brash, steam-rolling nature, but choppy, one-dimensional suspension setup never made them fun. The XM is an improvement on that.
With Maricopa Country’s B-roads twisty and flat, they were also narrow and dusty, so we left DSC On, and while the XM’s huge brakes do feel up to the task of slowing the behemoth down, we simply didn’t feel comfortable pushing an SUV of this heft too far.
There’s also a M Dynamic Mode, which lets the safety net slip a little. BMW M says you can shut DSC Off to unlock sporty all-wheel drive modes - there’s 4WD Sport which shunts most of the torque to the rear, and 4WD Sand, which is for dune-driving and similar. We didn’t want to flatten ATV and dirt-bikers, nor get the XM stuck in unofficial rally-raiding, so we have no insight into these modes first hand.
In between the extremes of ICE fury and electric silence, the sheer amount of tweak-ability ensures you’ll find something to your liking, even if you will take some time and menu-diving to get there.
But what we love even more about the XM is its angelic party trick. The colossal, overdone (and perhaps slightly obscene) high-lux, high-performance SUV segment is still booming, but few of them can claim the headlining figures, size, and price of this car with any form of redemption.
The XM, for all its loud SUV-ness, can. BMW quotes 80-ish km on electric drive, and given that its fifth-gen e-drive tech is amongst the best in the market, and judging the official range of its electrified models, this should be do-able in Singapore.
And as far as large, mega-powered SUVs go you can certainly do worse for the money, or even more money. There will be at least four of five million-dollar SUVs on the market in Singapore in 2023, and the most relevant XM competitors might be Porsche’s new EV Cayenne, possibly Audi’s E-Tron S (both of which are smaller and not direct competitors).
It’s also clear that BMW M is no longer just about the ‘Nurb, straight-six engines, and RWD, although those things obviously still exist. BMW M is about wish fulfilment, and as the world changes, M does some mighty morphin’ with it.
PHOTOS BMW USA
Engine 4385cc, V8, twin-turbocharged
Electric Motor Output 146kW/7000rpm
Electric Motor Torque 280Nm/100-5500rpm
System Output 653hp
System Torque 800Nm
Transmission 8spd auto
Top Speed 250km/h / 275km/h
Electric Consumption 29.5kWh/100km
Fuel Consumption 1.6L/100km