Have you ever gone into your favorite restaurant and deviated from ordering your usual meal but somewhat regretted your new choice? Ultimately, you felt that you should have stuck to what works as the new choice failed to live up to how good it looked on the menu. As it turns out, this week is a similar experience in spending time with the all-new BMW XM, an SUV that initially looked intriguing upon a first glance but after digesting all that it has to offer, it turned out to be more of an acquired taste with a lingering aftertaste for BMW M enthusiasts – instead of being an appetizing delight that I find in other BMW M vehicles.
In full transparency, I have been a longtime BMW M enthusiast not only through my ownership of a BMW M vehicle but there has never been a BMW M vehicle that I didn’t want to own until now. I don’t say such so lightly, as therein lies some good traits about the new BMW XM, but you must dig a little to the end of this unique meal and maybe indulge in a bit of this meal’s dessert before you find pleasure in the BMW XM – or at least figure out what its purpose is in a tight knit field of performance-oriented two-row, 5 passenger SUVs.
Starting with the looks, the new BMW XM has a unique visual appeal that is flashier and more blingy than the typical menacing look that’s been traditionally reserved for BMW M vehicles. There’s an assured signature of what it is from the overside kidney grilles up front and the lighting elements, but things start to get a bit heavy on the jewelry-wearing-looking body trim as you move to the side and see the flashy, optional 22-inch wheels (23-inch wheels come standard, surprisingly, and can be finished in gold) and then follow through the rear that lacks the traditional BMW emblem in the middle. Instead, the BMW XM attempts to take a play from the 1970s BMW M1 supercar by having two BMW logos etched on either upper side of the rear hatch glass, which is a homage to the M1’s dual BMW logos on its rear. The stately presence of the BMW XM is one that demands attention, which is good and bad depending on how well you acquire the unique proportions and in-your-face looks. On the good side, there’s no confusing the BMW XM with anything else other than being a large in-charge BMW.
The new BMW XM is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), which is a different and first take on a BMW M vehicle. While I’m not opposed to a BMW M vehicle being a PHEV, and it is inevitable that such a vehicle would eventually come to life, the BMW XM falls a bit short of my initial expectations, which is a head scratcher because it has 644 horsepower. That power, all 644 ponies and 590 lb-ft of torque makes the XM one of the most powerful BMWs ever conceived until the BMW XM Red Label with 738 horsepower and 738 lb-ft of torque arrives in the coming months.
Using BMW’s 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 engine (483-hp/479 lb-ft of torque) coupled with a 194-horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque electric motor that are both integrated with an 8-speed automatic transmission, the BMW XM isn’t shy about clawing at the pavement through all four wheels. There’s a mountain of power in the XM, but extracting that power is somewhat sapped by the curb weight of the XM, tipping the scale at 6,062 pounds. That weight feels somewhat hidden thanks to BMW’s welcomed tuning of the adaptive M suspension professional system using a traditional coil setup instead of an air suspension. The choice of such a suspension setup makes for a somewhat busy ride quality, where the XM seems to twitch a bit much for my liking. Apart from the busyness, there’s a subtle composure in the default comfort mode and a satisfying feeling when the dampers adapt quickly to keep the body from having too much movement going over large undulations and sharp rises in the road. Using the red M1 or M2 programable steering wheel drive mode buttons you can quickly dial up your desirable preset performance perimeters for steering, engine response, braking, dynamic stability control, the four-wheel-drive system, and a welcomed sporty composure that’s amplified by setting the dampers in Sport or Sport Plus modes.
Being a PHEV means there’s some electrification to work with, and usually that means good fuel economy. Sure, you can get decent MPG figures (combined 46 MPGe when using a full charge and a full tank of gas), only if you’re inclined to charge up the BMW XM, which will then give you just over 30 miles of electric range. Using just the gas engine with a depleted 19.2 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, you’ll often match or beat the EPA figures of 18 mpg city, 20 mpg highway, and 19 mpg combined. Surprisingly, after charging the BMW XM for about 3 hours (32-amp max charge via a 7.4-kW onboard charger) using our Enphase HCS-50 40-amp home EV charging unit, the electric range jumped to 39 miles, of which I was able to get a solid 37 miles out of the charge without the use of the engine. The braking is smooth with a seamless transition from the two-level-mode braking regen and strong friction M brakes with six-piston calipers up front.
The electric-only power utilization was actually decent, and a dedicated Electric drive mode prevented the engine from firing up unless I floored the throttle. In electric mode, using the 8-speed automatic transmission for some additional low-end grunt leverage kept the XM feeling peppy, and it was able to get up to speed just quick enough. The downfall is that there is some clumsiness to the drivetrain for initial starts, where the creep of the vehicle is very slow, and the electric power seems to be very jumpy as is the engine stepping in from an initial start. Sometimes there’s an unwanted delay in power delivery from a stop, which is unsettling. I do enjoy the rear-wheel steering, smooth braking transitions, and 48-volt active anti-roll bars that make piloting the XM somewhat fun and endearing for throwing around 6,000 pounds so easily. It often feels like you’re going much slower than you really are until you take a glance at the color head-up display’s speed readout. It’s those times you’re thankful for the XM reading speed limit signs giving you a speed limit warning.
One of the most disappointing aspects of this specialized M SUV (or SAV-Sports Activity Vehicle as BMW calls it) is the sound that the XM makes, inside and out. There’s the apparent artificial engine noise pumped in when the engine is running in that seems to clash with the little bit of exhaust sound that you get from the vertically stacked exhaust pipes out back. If you set the drive mode to Sport Plus, you do get some exhaust burbles and subtle pops, which is welcoming for a BMW M vehicle. Still, there’s a sensation that the BMW XM has been sterilized in the sense of being an M vehicle, even though it’s more of a Bespoke iteration of M. You often think the XM sounds like a turbo V6 instead of the powerful twin-turbo V8 that it has.
Don’t get me wrong here. The XM is a good performer and has the under-hood goods to put a smile on your face. It just doesn’t do it like the BMW X5M/X6M, which in my opinion, are better “M” performance SUVs sans the bling, electrification, and extra weight. Zero to 60 mph is still good at 3.9 seconds as my best time.
To me, the new XM does a better job presenting its interior as being above and beyond most others than it does with the exterior design. Inside, there’s a respected plush theme that’s laced with sportiness in the nicely bolstered, heated, ventilated, and massaging seats up front. The rear bench seat with heated outboard seats, the only way the XM comes, features a pattern stitching and is quite comfy. You’ll feel like someone important no matter where you sit inside the XM, as there’s plenty of matte carbon fiber trim and a textured Alcantara headliner with 100 embedded color-changing LED lights surrounding the inset layer for the diamond-pattern liner. The dynamic LED lights signal doors opening, phone call alerts, and even pre-collision alerts, all with different ‘dancing’ colors. It’s quite an immersive experience without the option of a sunroof.
Up front, the XM gets BMW’s latest curved screen that integrates the 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and a 14.9-inch iDrive infotainment system touchscreen. The iDrive 8 setup is the same deep system that I’ve boasted about in previous BMW reviews this year, which integrates wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Again, the major issue resides with an abundance of system feature icons and on-screen climate controls that can be distracting and somewhat confusing upon the first few times of using the system.
The space inside the XM is vast as the XM borrows the same wheelbase as in the new X7 but has a body that’s about 2.4-inches shorter. Still, that space gives way for a large back seat where passengers can enjoy just over 40 inches of legroom. The unfortunate part of the interior space is the rear cargo area, where the flat loading floor is very high but gives you about 19 cubic feet behind the rear seats. Fold the rear 60/40-split seatbacks down, and you get 64 cubic feet of cargo space.
In a nutshell, the BMW XM feels more like it’s in a battle against itself as it isn’t necessarily direct competition for something like the Lamborghini Urus, Porsche Cayenne Turbo, or even the Audi RSQ8. It’s more like BMW decided to make a vehicle for deep pocket ballers or be a better Rodeo Drive cruiser than the Mercedes-AMG G63, all considering its price starting at $159,000. That price includes a long list of standard features with the availability of just a few options, of which my test vehicle has the two options of a $2,500 M Driver’s Package (raises top speed from 155 mph to 168 mph) and a $3,400 Bowers & Wilkins sound system – coming to a total price of $165,895. I’m at a lost for giving the BMW XM accolades apart from its respected performance, PHEV versatility, and its interior being so inviting with several unique design elements that set it apart from just about anything else on the road. Possibly, the buyers of the BMW XM have the intent to receive instant street cred that comes along with look-at-me head turns everywhere they go in driving something original – until they see another XM sporting the same color. With that said, bring on the 738-HP BMW XM Red Label and let’s give this distinctive BMW a mulligan.