It was clear that the 2023 BMW XM would stirrup controversy from the second it debuted. It’s the second car BMW’s M division has ever made, following the M1 of the 1970s. Yet it’s not some low-slung supercar. It’s a 6,062-pound hybrid SUV. Its styling pushes BMW’s current design language to extremes, appearing more like a concept car than anything else. It’s striking, divisive even. Built to court a totally different buyer
But then again, that’s the point. BMW could’ve easily built another six-figure SUV that goes a million miles an hour but will keep up with supercars on a back road. That would’ve been expected. Instead, the German carmaker decided to break new ground and build something unique and ambitious. As impressive as the XM is as a driving machine, it won’t be for everyone, partly because it costs $159,995. Its performance isn’t its main selling point.
Anyone who buys an XM won’t do so despite its styling. They’ll do so because of it.
|Engine||Twin-Turbocharged 4.4-Liter V8|
|Output||644 Horsepower / 590 Pound-Feet|
|0-60 MPH||4.1 Seconds|
|Base Price||$159,995, Including A $995 Destination Fee|
With its chunky proportions and angular styling elements, the XM will have its fair share of haters but hardcore fans as well. At least that’s the plan according to BMW Group’s head of design Domagoj Dukec. His goal was to push the carmaker’s products in a bold new direction, citing that all major design disruptions aren’t universally loved at first.
While I see where he’s coming from, living in Los Angeles, I see the XM in a different light. It falls under the same category as the Lamborghini Urus and Mercedes-AMG G63, SUVs that are performance-oriented but mostly purchased because of their aesthetics. They’re almost fashionable items that grab attention and tell the world something about their owner. They’re statement pieces.
Although the XM’s styling doesn’t work for me on a personal level, I’ve grown to respect it. No other carmaker will sell you something that looks this close to a concept car, from its enormous front grille, tiny headlights, and aggressively slooped roof down to its massive 23-inch optional wheelset.
In recent years, the big-performance SUVs have become too homogenous. If I ask you to imagine a carbon-fiber-filled coupe-style SUV with a big V8, I bet you’ll be able to name more than a few. So while the XM may not be for me, it’s something genuinely different.
The XM is the first vehicle BMW M’s division has built since the M1 mentioned above. While it looks like nothing else the carmaker currently produces, it rides on a platform borrowed from the X7. Unlike the X7, however, its engine, as you’ll find out below, is massively upgraded. Still, M’s latest is dimensionally about as long and wide as a Lamborghini Urus but significantly taller. Given this SUV’s standing as a performance SUV, BMW didn’t bother with a third row, significantly increasing interior space.
Under the XM’s hood sits BMW’s well-known twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 producing 483 hp and 479 pound-feet. It works alongside a 194-hp electric motor to deliver a total system output of 644 hp and 590 lb-ft. The electric motor is integrated into an eight-speed automatic transmission, which sends power to all four wheels. Alongside the ICE, a 29.5-kilowatt-hour pack allows the XM to travel up to 30 miles on battery power, taking nearly three and a half hours to top up at 7.4 kilowatts.
Although its powertrain is complex, it gives the XM more flexibility than a traditional performance SUV. The electric motor hides any turbo lag as the V8 revs up, delivering maximum performance the second your right foot requests it. Although on paper, the XM is slower to 60 mph than rivals like the Lamborghini Urus and Mercedes-AMG G63, taking 4.1 seconds to complete the run, you’d be hard-pressed to tell in the real world.
Without running them back to back, the XM feels as quick as any other six-figure performance SUV. It delivers plenty of torque down low in the rev range, allowing it to rocket out of corners, almost ignoring its 6,062-lb curb weight. It seemingly never runs out of steam, even while pushing triple-digit speeds. Its performance is impressive but not unique.
It’s the XM’s versatility that sets it apart. Although the burbly exhaust note from its stacked tips is thrilling, the ability to fire it up on electric power only is a feature I’ve really come to appreciate. With a 30-mile range, I communed in the XM as if it were an EV with its 194-hp electric motor delivering respectable performance. When the battery fully drains, the V8 replenishes it, gaining considerable range quickly.
Out of the city and up in the canyons with its V8 blaring, the XM holds its own in the bends. Unlike competitors, it doesn’t rely on air springs, sticking to steel ones paired with adaptive dampers as standard. Combined with a low center of gravity and nearly perfect weight distribution, the XM is a willing dance partner on a twisty road.
While it never lets you forget you’re hauling 6,062-lb of batteries, leather, and steel, M’s latest is surprisingly agile, given its form factor. It’s stable, too, managing its weight well while retaining a level of agility you wouldn’t expect from something so large. Thanks to its rear-biased all-wheel drive system, the XM isn’t quick to understeer, confidently putting all of its power down. Should the XM be your only car, it won’t disappoint on a back road.
Around town, however, it’s a slightly different story. While its suspension tuning makes it a great driver’s car, it’s borderline too stiff for a commuter. Every bump, crack, or pebbles results in unwanted vibrations through the cabin. Its suspension crashes over speedbumps and only truly smooths out at high speed on the highway. My tester’s 23-inch wheels certainly don’t help, and while I like their styling, I’d stick to the standard 22s.
From a steering perspective, the XM feels like any other modern M product. Its steering is heavily weighted but transmits little feedback to the driver. Since you can configure a unique drive mode, it’s best to keep the steering light and chassis as soft as possible for the best experience.
As happy as I am that the XM is fantastic to drive, its choice to go so extreme to the point of sacrificing daily comfort is confusing. For an SUV that leans considerably into the luxury space, shouldn’t its ride do so as well?
The XM continues to set itself apart with a unique cabin layout. It may feature the same curved dual-screen display as other BMW’s, blending its instrument cluster with its infotainment screen, but its dashboard layout is unique. Every major surface is covered in either Nappa Leather or Alcantara, fitting additions given the XM’s $159,995 price tag and the SUV’s it’s looking to compete with. However, my tester missed out on perhaps the best interior option available.
It’s called Vintage Coffee Marino, a dark brown shade of Nappa leather available in a two-tone configuration for an additional $2,500. It pairs with either Silverstone (white) or Deep Lagoon (blue) and differentiates itself because it leaves the material’s natural properties on display. Thus, you see unique patterns and details on the SUV’s dashboard and other major surfaces, a truly unique touch. Although classic, my tester’s all-black look lacks the coolness of the vintage option.
All XMs get what BMW calls its “sculptural headliner” instead of a traditional sunroof. It combines a three-dimensional pattern with 100 LEDs to create a unique lighting element, similar to how Rolls-Royce has its starlight roof. At night, the cabin comes alive thanks to the bright mood lighting, which along with the upgraded interior layout and materials, further separate the XM from other BMWs.
Upfront, you get a pair of chairs that are supremely comfortable despite their sizable side bolsters. They’re the only option available, and while they may be visually quite sporty, they’re at home in a big luxury SUV. The XM’s second row, however, sees the most significant changes. Since the XM is X7-sized but lacks a third row, BMW dramatically increased second-row space. Thus there’s plenty of head and legroom, so much so that the carmaker coined the term “M Lounge” for it.
As comfortable and well-appointed as its cabin may be, the luxury feel begins to fade on the move. Whether it be its 23-in wheels mentioned above or a lack of sound deadening, unwanted noise constantly intrudes into the cabin. Sound from road imperfections, tires, or wind noise fills the interior. It’s louder than you’d expect for an SUV leaning so hard into the luxury realm.
The 2023 BMW XM starts at $159,995, including a $995 destination fee. Much of my tester’s best features came standard, such as its Cape York Green paint, plush black leather seats, carbon fiber trim, and painted brake calipers. Extras like its optional $3,400 Bowers & Wilkins sound system push its as-tested price to $163,145 with only one extra, the $2,500 M Driver’s Package, left unticked. As such, the XM’s price tag may be elevated, but it can’t climb much higher.
Although this price point places the XM far above the $123,295 X5 M Competition, its intended customer base will more likely cross-shop it against the $180,000 Mercedes-AMG G63, or even the $235,000 Lamborghini Urus, SUVs that are performance-oriented yes but sell mainly due to their aesthetics.
Regardless of how you look at it, the 2023 BMW XM is a controversial car. It’s BMW M’s second vehicle ever, yet it’s not some low-slung supercar like the concept-car-like i8. It’s a huge, heavy, quick hybrid SUV with luxurious materials. As BMW enters a new electrified era, the XM targets an entirely different customer than the M1 did in the 1970s.
Although it drives spectacularly well, cutting up twisty roads like an SUV half its size, the XM’s performance won’t be its main selling point. Instead, buyers will flock to the XM because of its styling, not despite it. As divisive as it may be, it stands out. It captures attention in cities like Beverly Hills, where even hypercars are common. For those who want to be seen, the XM isn’t just a quick SUV. It’s a statement piece.