|Vehicle: 2023 BMW XM
|Starting Price: $159,000 MSRP
|Pros: Unmistakable styling, delivers big on performance
|Cons: Struggles to behave gently during daily driving, quick to drain its hybrid juice
It can be argued that BMW kicked off the performance SUV craze in the late ‘90s with the X5, something that was then a novel concept. A utility vehicle with the capabilities of a sport sedan? What a selfish fever dream. And yet, a quarter of a century later, the segment is so in demand, there’s nary an automaker in the business who doesn’t have at least one barnstorming family-hauler in its portfolio.
Throughout it all, BMW has held on to its spot in the maelstrom by producing a litany of “sport activity vehicles” in all shapes and sizes, making sure to satisfy every potential driver’s discerning tastes. This year, the Bavarian automaker adds yet another one into the mix, one meant to surpass all of what’s come before. The 2023 BMW XM is an all-new vehicle straight from the M sport division. No 3s, 5s or 7s here, just M — and it’s the meanest, most ferocious SUV BMW has ever made.
A Full-Bodied BMW
The BMW XM is a five-seater SUV powered by a familiar-to-bimmerfolk 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 engine that is married to a plug-in hybrid system that brings the total power output to 644 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. This makes it the most powerful utility vehicle in BMW’s lineup, putting it in contention with other hefty hot-steppers such as the 657-hp Lamborghini Urus and Aston Martin’s 542-hp DBX. If that still doesn’t sound satisfactory, the upcoming Label Red edition ups the potency to 748 horsepower. As such, the “normal” XM is capable of hopping from 0 to 60 in 4.2 seconds.
As a hybrid, the XM ostensibly opens up a breadth of driving options to suit every mood or style, including the ability to coast around in all-electric mode for a modest 30 or so miles on a full charge.
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BMW has taken a great deal of guff for its more out-there design choices of late, much of it focused squarely at the two ever-expanding kidney grille snouts that are signature elements of the BMW facia. The XM leans hard into the sharp near-crystalline stylings, spurred on by what’s been showcased in the iX and continued with the current 7-Series sedan. Eschewing any subtlety, the designers of the XM pushed the angular creases to their most aggressive, highlighted with attention-grabbing trimmings of metallic gold.
Like or not, you have to give it to the brand for trying. BMW’s been a pillar of the German luxury set long enough for it to become the standard that young brands like Genesis point to as “stuffy” and out of fashion. Thanks to the current design language permeating throughout its latest models, it’s hard to argue that this is still the case, no matter how critical you may be about big, snouty grilles.
XM’s Extreme Personality
The exterior aesthetic carries along inside, as much of the polygonal style choices make their way across the XM’s many surfaces and, most notably, along the headliner. The interior attempts to split the difference between contemporary luxury decor and functional performance machine, blending together familiar BMW controls, racy carbon fiber bits and premium touch points.
The centerpiece is the sweeping curved display screen that houses the infotainment menus as well as the driver’s digital gauge cluster within one singular component. Along with the expected conveniences, the XM’s touchscreen is home to the SUV’s vast settings where owners can adjust the BMW’s behavior to the most minute degree. This is indeed becoming a well-established trait for the brand, and XM owners can expect to spend a substantial amount of time fiddling with options until they settle onto a satisfactory configuration.
True to its aggressive posture, the XM’s drivetrain treats every input as a strongman approaches every lift, with a sharp inhale and a great exertion, even if it’s a light weight, or in this case, comfort mode. As previously mentioned, there are many ways to configure the SUV’s behavior, and what the XM makes immediately clear is how much it prefers to be in a sporty setting. Engine response and e-motor intervention can all be adjusted, as well as suspension and steering wheel rigidity, along with a way to trade gearbox smoothness for speedy shifts.
Put to use in an ideal environment, be it long highway stretches or backroads, and the XM happily complies with inputs, eagerly pushing the speedometer numbers higher than they feel and making it clear it’s capable of so much more. All of the XM’s engineering’s magic comes to life as it makes the angular behemoth feel far smaller and lithe than it actually is, and all of the BMW’s divisive quirks fade into the background.
Gratingly, they all return once the joyride is done. Even when powered solely by the e-motor, the XM is flummoxed by gentle inputs, lurching forward and backward when trying to be coaxed into (or out of) a parking spot or trying to respond to a green traffic light in a normal, non-“race me” way. All told, the XM is a mixed bag of rewarding performance and a collection of small irritations that some drivers will happily ignore while they exhaust others. As they say, your mileage may vary.
Loud and Proud
BMW’s brash XM chafes underneath its multifaceted luxury exterior in any instance of forced civility. The punchy powertrain is all too eager to propel the XM like a glitzy boar broken free from its containment after a failed attempt at domestication. Even with every one of its myriad settings adjusted for maximum comfort, the XM struggles to find the capacity to be gentle with its occupants.
When given the chance to fully tap into its purpose, the XM is relentless in its power delivery and crisp in its handling, though the performance SUV will certainly remind you of its brutish nature through its pugilistic inputs. Though it’s reassuring to know that the SUV’s driving dynamics are just as sharp and aggressive as its looks, the XM can be taxing for everyday use in-between the thrills. Dress to the nines and drive at full clip throughout your everyday errands, and you’ll get a sense of what it’s like living with the XM.
To that end, the XM is one of the most eye-catching vehicles roaming the streets right now. Polarizing? Perhaps, but those who are displeased to see the BMW seem to keep to themselves while the crowd hyped to see the XM will go out of their way to express their enthusiasm for it. Either way, the BMW XM is certainly something that can’t be ignored.
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