2023 BMW XM new car reviews

Photography Courtesy BMW

BMW XM: Can an SUV feel like an M car?

By J.A. Ackley

An M-badged SUV is nothing new, but what happens when you let BMW M loose to design their own SUV? You get the BMW XM, a 6062-pound behemoth with a plug-in hybrid powertrain (an M first) that puts out 644 horsepower and 590 lb.-ft. of torque. Those may be impressive numbers, but sports car enthusiasts such as yourself want to know: Does it feel like an M car?

To put that question to the test, BMW invited us to drive an XM for nearly four hours, from Scottsdale, Arizona, to a town where Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp once lived in, Prescott, Arizona. The route included stints in city and rural settings; on highways and on narrow, twisty mountain roads. The drive provided plenty of opportunities to understand many aspects of the XM, from 1250 feet to 7022 feet in altitude.

Test No. 1: As a Daily Driver

To start, we put the BMW XM in all-electric mode to transverse the urban locale of Scottsdale. It may only boast 194 horsepower, but it had plenty of “giddy-up,” as the cowboys would say. According to Dirk Häcker, head of development for BMW M, it has about 50 miles of range on all-electric, making it perfect for when you have to get grub in town without sipping gas or, maybe more importantly, disturbing the locals with the sounds of that melodious V8. More on that later.

The XM possesses probably one of the most interesting interiors of any passenger car vehicle. The front half looks and feels like most other BMWs, but it’s the rear that’s unique. BMW calls it the “M Lounge.”

How the headliner of the M Lounge looks in white.

If you love the club atmosphere, this hits the spot. The M Lounge even includes “a sculpturally designed headliner, whose Alcantara leather surface has a three-dimensional prism sculpture,” said Häcker. A total of 100 LEDs further accentuates the pattern.

Some journalists at this press event felt the rear was too dark, suggesting that BMW should use a glass roof instead. However, that would turn the M Lounge into a sunroom and ruin the ambiance that BMW M wants to create. As it stands now, it feels like the perfect setting to take your friends to the party.

It seats up to three in the rear, with plenty of legroom. M Merino leather adorns the interiors, with a unique pattern of surfaces on the rear seats that side more on the spectrum of comfort than support.

To finish out the M Lounge, the BMW XM comes with an optional Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System, too.

OK, so these features, which are certainly lux, don’t seem so M-like–after all, the M stands for Motorsport. Motorsport equates to performance, not necessarily comfort. You’re probably thinking, “Tell me more about how it drives!” No problem. Onward to the stage, which is what BMW M calls the cockpit, because that’s where the performance takes place.

Test No. 2: As a Performance Vehicle

Short of taking the XM to the track, the twisty, sometimes narrow, two-lane roads leading to Prescott, Arizona, offered a great chance to put this vehicle’s performance to the test.

First, let’s go over how “the stage” feels for the driver. Overall, it feels quite intuitive. There’s a wealth of buttons to digest at first, but as time goes on you develop a memory for where they are. The BMW M curved display pleasantly delivers the information you need with little hassle.

We had a bit of an issue with the navigation on the display alerting us to our next turn, but the head-up display gave us adequate information to avoid issues.

The seats seemed comfortable for the long drive and provided adequate support as you spiritedly sling an SUV around a mountain. They had built-in massagers, too.

Speaking of those roads, let’s talk about that performance. To sum it up, it exceeded expectations in every way imaginable.

It has the brawn of a linebacker, yet the gracefulness of a ballet dancer. Despite its size, it feels incredibly small, even around hairpin turns. The vehicle pleasantly dove into those said corners in a predictable manner, with very little overall body roll. The handling truly feels like an M3 or M4, and behind the wheel you forget that it weighs nearly 3 tons and measures 201 inches long.

The XM is a four-wheel-drive vehicle, but there’s also 4WD Sport and 4WD Sand modes. We preferred the Sport mode, in just about every situation we encountered, because it delivers most of the power to the rear wheels.

We also enjoyed the sport plus setting for drivetrain and chassis, which gave the two a more energetic feel. We preferred the comfort mode for brakes, which gave a bit stiffer pedal. The steering, whether in comfort or sport, seemed a tad too stiff for our liking, though.

The real gem, however, is its powertrain. It pairs a 483-horsepower S68 V8 engine with a 194-horsepower electric motor derived from BMW non-M cars.

We got to put the powertrain to the test on one of those long, straight-as-an-arrow, two-lane highways in the middle of the desert. It effortlessly passed as a 16-wheeler with ease. The eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission shifted cleanly, without any hesitation, delivering the best of both worlds–the torque of an electric motor and the power of a V8. No turbo lag, either, thanks in part to the M TwinPower Turbo technology, with a cross-bank exhaust manifold. Plus, the engine sounds great, with a delightfully throaty exhaust note exiting two exhaust pipes on each corner of the rear.

BMW said the XM does a zero to 60 in 4.1 seconds, which matches the M4 time, and it felt like an M4 when you got on the accelerator. When cruising, though, the XM seemed incredibly civil, too, another example of the strengths of pairing an electric motor with an internal combustion engine.

BMW M officials reminded us that they don’t create one-off powertrains, so keep an eye out for future M products with this configuration.

In late summer, BMW will release XM Label Red, a limited edition that puts out 735 horses and 735 lb.-ft. of torque. We find it wild that there’s an even more powerful version on the way as the regular XM offers plenty of umph.

Overall, the BMW XM truly shines in the powertrain department.

Is this the M “Car” for You?

If you’re the BMW traditionalist clinging onto the grills that once featured small kidneys during your formative years, this vehicle’s probably not for you.

BMW describes the exterior design as “aggressive,” which seems befitting for the next generation of BMW owners. In fact, some of those from BMW M dubbed the white XM we drove the “Stormtrooper.” It fits, and it oddly makes it seem even more chic.

Pricing for the BMW XM starts at $159,000, with only a few options offered, such as the Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround System ($3400) and M Driver’s Package ($2000).

We asked both Häcker and BMW M CEO Franciscus van Meel, “Who’s the target demographic for the XM?” Their answer was simply the “extroverted.” They only elaborated that it fits a lifestyle rather than a traditional age bracket. Was it an odd answer? Were they being painfully coy? It certainly seemed it until we took the XM out.

Now, we get it. Their answer fits.

This vehicle is meant to be enjoyed with others, whether that’s with your passenger riding shotgun or your posse in the back.

But, to answer our initial question, does it feel like an M car?

Yes, it does.

Sure, it lacks the trackability, but it offers much of what any other M car provides, and more.

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Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
3/18/23 8:20 a.m.
J.A. Ackley said: 

BMW M officials reminded us that they don’t create one-off powertrains, so keep an eye out for future M products with this configuration.

I like this sentence the most. Excited to see where else we'll see this powertrain.

300zxfreak Reader
3/20/23 4:34 p.m.

Just when I thought that designers had reached the epitome of bad taste in front end designs, BMW raises the bar. Can't find one redeeming feature of that car's design. I just keep having visions of a hog snorting in his favorite wallow. Yecchhhh.

cyncrvr New Reader
3/22/23 8:03 p.m.
300zxfreak said:

Just when I thought that designers had reached the epitome of bad taste in front end designs, BMW raises the bar. Can't find one redeeming feature of that car's design. I just keep having visions of a hog snorting in his favorite wallow. Yecchhhh.

Ya, maybe the worst front end ever. It manages to combine the worst of BMW front ends with elements of the worst of Lexus front ends. An absolute abomination.

J.A. Ackley
J.A. Ackley Senior Editor
4/12/23 8:52 a.m.

Update on the BMW XM Label Red.

It'll put out 738 horsepower, do a zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds, and a top speed of 175 mph with the optional M Driver's Package. This makes it the most powerful M vehicle ever built.

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