The fantastic future of M
The BMW XM plug-in hybrid has what it takes to compete with performance SUVs like the Lamborghini Urus.
March 17, 2023 at 7:01 p.m. ET
Jochen Neerpasch is probably not thrilled with the idea of a £6,000 hybrid SUV that acts as the spiritual successor to the beloved BMW M1, which he helped design. But BMW doesn’t want to live in the past, as the company has proven time and time again with its recent offerings. The future is electric and BMW isn’t afraid to embrace it head-on, ICE trailers be damned.
The hybridized BMW XM 2023 is the first in a long line of battery-powered M vehicles. Despite sharing almost nothing in common with historic M cars (particularly the M1) and picking up themes once unimaginable in a BMW performance vehicle, the XM has more than earned its badge for just one reason: it’s absolutely effing rips .
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|Quick Stats:||BMW XM 2023|
|Engine:||Twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 with single electric motor|
|Exit:||664 horsepower / 590 pound-feet|
|Battery:||29.5 kilowatt hours of lithium-ion|
|EV range:||30 miles|
|Basic price:||$159,000 + $995 destination|
Gallery: 2023 BMW XM: First Drive Report
Powered by a 4.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 and a single electric motor sandwiched between the engine and transmission, the XM has 664 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. That helps propel this behemoth from an SUV to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds. While that’s not as fast as the Aston Martin DBX 707, Lamborghini Urus or even the Bentley Bentayga Speed, the 750hp Red Label model will eventually bring the XM closer to that group.
The XM’s 29.5 gross kilowatt-hours (19.2 kWh usable) lithium-ion battery pack and electric motor help fill in the gaps where turbo lag might live – not that this rowdy V8 gets much of it – and the transition between petrol and electric is seamless. I can’t think of a PHEV powertrain that works in unison that perfectly.
Overall performance is impressive. The electric motor’s instantaneous torque provides remarkable quickness off the line, and once the V8 kicks in, the XM quickly rockets to a rev of 7,000 rpm. Not that you have to pound it that hard for this SUV to have you back in the seat forces.
Even running on electrons only, the XM is sporty and engaging. The electric motor alone produces 194 hp and 207 lb-ft, which is almost as much as a base Volkswagen ID.4, and it comes with all the same sporty driving settings as in hybrid drive mode. There’s even a custom acceleration soundtrack by Hans Zimmer (à la iX) that helps make it feel more spaceship-like. The XM has a range of around 30 miles at speeds of up to 87 mph. When plugged in, the battery is charged with up to 7.4 kilowatts and can go from zero to 100 in just over three hours.
Despite its impressive curb weight, the XM is an absolute favorite in the corners. Its perfect 50/50 weight distribution makes it feel agile and shrinks around the driver more easily than the comparable X5 M. There’s no understeer and hardly any body roll, which is almost unimaginable in a 6,000-pound SUV. BMW opted for traditional steel suspension instead of air here, but added active anti-roll bars with a 48-volt electric architecture and rear-wheel steering – worth 2.5 degrees in low- and high-speed situations – to handle the high curb weight.
The steering is exceptional. The XM has a linear and well-balanced steering feel that has a healthy dose of electronic power assist, but still delivers actual feedback, not like the M3 and M4’s overly quick and jerky setups. The wheel itself also feels slightly larger in diameter but is a little less chunky compared to other M models, which I personally prefer.
One thing the XM doesn’t offer is single-pedal driving, but there is a two-stage regenerative braking system that generously reclaims battery power. When you need to get that big boy out of speed, the default brake-by-wire system is perfectly progressive and even customizable to suit your riding needs. You can adjust the brakes to be grippier for harder braking or softer for pedaling around town.
This flexibility applies to every aspect of the XM. Unlike the always-on X5 M, the XM doesn’t break your back at speed bumps or drown out the cabin in excessive noise if you leave it in comfort mode. The XM can transform from wild to calm at the push of a button.
Love it or hate it looks
The XM isn’t visually appealing on a mass scale. The split headlights are debatable, but they work a little better here than on the i7 or X7. The kidney grilles are thankfully not as vertical as on other M models, but they still take up a fair amount of space at the front end. And while BMW offers 22-inch wheels on the base XM, the huge 23-inch wheels wrapped in ultra-flat rubber look comically big.
Here’s what I like: The two etched round logos in the rear glass offer a stylish, subtle nod to the M1 (practically the only callback). The trapezoidal quad exhaust tips stacked on top of each other at both corners of the bumper are pretty impressive too. But for better or worse, the XM needed to have as much visual presence as the equally controversial Urus – and it definitely does.
BMW continues its line of excellent interiors with a lavish cabin that exudes hedonism thanks to Merino leather, Alcantara and carbon fiber trim. Stitching covers the front and rear seats, while the rear seat leather even extends seamlessly to the door panels for a unique look and more comfort when turning and speaking to your rear passenger. The XM I drove had beautiful orange Merino leather throughout, but other examples featured the XM’s exclusive Vintage Coffee Merino leather, which looked absolutely adorable.
The same 3D geometric headliner from the concept makes its way into production and it’s fantastic. The unique textured pattern provides a fun sight for rear passengers with ambient lighting and “M” elements embedded in the headliner.
And of course the latest iDrive 8 interface is carried over from the iX, the new X7 and others. It projects onto the same 14.9-inch touchscreen and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster found in those cars, and it’s still clean, concise and easy to navigate. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are of course wireless.
The BMW XM is impressive. It’s equal parts curvaceous SUV masterpiece and comfortable everyday driver with one of the finest and most seamless plug-in hybrid powertrains available today. The XM also feels just as opulent inside as its $159,995 price tag would suggest.
But even at this price point, the XM doesn’t feel unreasonably expensive. Only the RS Q8 is inherently cheaper, while Bentley, Porsche and of course Lamborghini are all much more expensive than the Bimmer – although they’re all slightly faster too.
But when it comes to all-round excellence, the BMW XM 2023 absolutely hits the nail on the head. It’s certainly not an M1, but if this is the future of M Performance, let me know.
|BMW XM 2023|
|engine||4.4-liter V8 with two turbochargers|
|engine||Simply permanently excited synchronously|
|Exit||664 horsepower / 590 pound-feet|
|drive type||all wheel drive|
|battery||29.5 kilowatt hours of lithium-ion|
|Speed 0-60 MPH||4.1 seconds|
|Maximum speed||168 MPH (with M Driver’s Package)|
|efficiency||16 Combined (estimated)|
|EV range||30 miles|
|fee type||240 volts at 7.4 kilowatts|
|charging time||3.25 hours|
|basic price||$159,000 + $995 destination|
|Trim base price||$159,995|
|As-Tested price||$160,500 (estimated)|