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PHOENIX, Ariz. – The 2023 BMW XM is packed with innovations and new concepts from BMW. It is the first production BMW to be an M-only model with no minor variants since the iconic M1 45 years ago. Furthermore, it is the first plug-in hybrid that is a complete M product. Its design, both inside and out, features all sorts of new flourishes, like a quad stacked exhaust, exterior lighting, a wild geometric headlining, and surprising natural leather on the dash. You could go ahead and dismiss it as not being a pure BMW M car, but you’d also be missing out on the best performing SUV BMW has ever put together.
Comparisons to the X5 M Competition are inevitable after a glance at the spec sheet – it utilizes BMW’s modular CLAR platform shared with the marque’s other rear-wheel drive vehicles – but a few minutes behind the wheel dispels those thoughts. To the XM’s great benefit, being a PHEV greatly enhances the experience, giving it an identity of its own.
A giant 29.5 kilowatt-hour battery pack – which comes close to some low-range EVs and is larger than the one in the i3 when it launched – is mounted under the body and provides an all-electric range of around 30 miles. , by BMW. The electric motor integrated into the eight-speed automatic transmission can pull you out of a stop surprisingly quickly, as it has 194 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. Sounds similar to those from EVs like the i4 M50 and iX M60 play from the speakers in EV mode and blend seamlessly with the rumble of the 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 to make you question whether you’re in electric mode or not. It’s slick and subtle, but the V8 can still act like the beast we’ve become accustomed to in other M cars.
Because the electric motor is so powerful, the combustion engine’s output is on the low side of V8-powered M vehicles, producing 483 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. For comparison purposes, the X5 M Competition delivers 617 horsepower and 553 pound-feet to all four wheels of its V8. The combined output for XM trumps those numbers, however, and rounds up to 644 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque, allowing for 0-60 mph sprints in a claimed 4.1 seconds.
Hitting the gas from a standstill will have you doubting the XM’s 6,052-pound weight. The instantaneous headrest acceleration exhibited by high-powered EVs is in the spotlight here, as the XM violently moves off the line. And before any electrical boost is lost, the boost from the twin turbos is ready to keep the party going. The XM’s throttle feel and throttle response is better why it’s a PHEV, exactly what we’d expect from an electrified M car.
BMW has a huge amount of tricks to ensure this big, heavy SUV handles like something from the M division. make the XM as fun to drive as it is. The rigid chassis attachments felt in the steering wheel and trouser seat immediately signal that this BMW means business. On Arizona’s winding mountain roads, the XM feels right at home, bouncing from corner to corner without feeling too heavy for the road. Its massive brakes never sweated, even on descents. Point the wheel and the XM immediately stays with the same level of precision we’re used to from an M3. Its Comfort steering setting is surprisingly the best, as this XM’s steering effort is too heavy in its Sport mode. Still, the act of disappearing all that weight is something to behold, and BMW does it without resorting to crushing ride quality.
Forgiveness in the XM’s suspension is a new quality for BMW’s M SUVs, as the X5 M and X3 M slam you no matter the road and don’t respond well when the chassis is turned. The adaptive dampers and steel springs – linear at the front and progressive at the rear – are tuned just how we like it. You can use the XM like a grand tourer for miles on end and enjoy its controlled, comfortable ride on the open road. And even in this comfort damping setting, the XM isn’t sloppy in corners. You can combine it with the full Sport Plus damper setup, and while that adds confidence in the form of less body movement, the excellent ride quality is still there. A large bump mid-turn will not disturb the chassis or cause an alarm. Instead, the XM immediately shrugs it off and keeps moving forward, providing the confidence to keep pushing you in and out of turns.
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Accelerating around tight corners and hairpin bends gives the M xDrive all-wheel drive system a chance to shine, and that’s just after the subtle four-wheel steering had already surprised with a quick, steady drop through the corner. The XM has a new model-specific M Sport differential that allows it to take advantage of its abundant electric torque, while fulfilling the same goal of fully variable torque distribution between the left and right rear wheels. The extra electric push that comes instantly when stepping on the accelerator is tangible. Lateral fun is just a right-footed stab away in M Dynamic Mode (MDM) that relaxes the nannies of traction and stability control. And just in case you’re on extra-low traction surfaces, the XM features a unique Sand 4WD mode that changes the AWD system’s programming and engages the rear differential lock function.
The sum of the XM’s parts really makes it the most fun M SUV, but there are still some flaws. Its biggest problem is shifting in the more aggressive manual mode. BMW has tuned violent bumps with every gear change, and they’re violent enough to remove you from the pace you fall into on a good mountain road. Dial it back to Sport Medium (not Sport Plus) and the bumps go away, but shifts aren’t as instantaneous as pulling a paddle. The solution is to simply put it in smart auto-shift mode, but the loss of engagement is a shame.
Like the outside, there is a very happening within XM, but it’s certainly less controversial and I’d say it’s genuinely compelling. High-bolstered seats, M-themed lighting and truly luxurious elements like “Vintage Merino” leather (seen above) immediately set the tone. The XM combines high luxury with traditional M design in the best way, going far beyond anything you could specify in a smaller M SUV. The sculptural ceiling using a 3D prism structure covered in Alcantara and backlit with 100 LED lights is the jewel in the crown – it’s infinitely cooler than any glass ceiling.
As you’d expect with a base price of $159,995, there’s no shortage of tech features available. We’ve already raised a lot of ire on BMW’s Curved Display and iDrive 8 software, but the XM is one of the eligible models for the new over-the-air iDrive 8.5 update, so here’s hoping things really get better. this summer when it launches. Physical buttons on the center console provide shortcuts to quickly switch the XM between pure electric, hybrid and “eCONTROL” modes, the latter of which retains current battery charge or adds charge via energy recovery. As always, the ever-convenient custom M1 and M2 steering wheels make jumping to the ideal settings easy, and there’s even more customization available here than usual due to the XM being a PHEV. The suite of driver assistance systems is super easy to use via steering wheel controls and further contribute to the XM being a fantastic grand tourer.
All of these more mundane perks are vital, because XMs will certainly spend more time dropping the kids off at school or lingering with valets at fancy hotels than they will on a racetrack or even bombing a winding road. Fortunately, the back seat is quite roomy. For longer rides, the flexible rear seats – they’re much softer than the more performance-oriented front seats – will be lovely. And despite the sloped roof, headroom for taller adults isn’t an issue. The cargo area is limited by the presence of that giant battery, as its cargo floor is relatively high with no underfloor storage. An X5 or iX wins big here against the XM, but don’t think space is useless because it’s still a big SUV.
Is it the high-performance SUV to beat all other performance SUVs? Is this a no; a Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid will still win over enthusiasts from a pure driving perspective. What the XM does represent, however, is that BMW M can successfully enter the electrification arena and end up with an end product that is more engaging and better to drive than its purely combustion engine performance SUV offerings. Someone who can afford the XM probably isn’t too concerned about saving a few extra bucks by driving to work and going back on electric, but the performance boost gained through said electric power will certainly be appreciated. Furthermore, if America decides to adopt European low-emissions zone policies in cities, the XM will be perfectly suited to the task.
You’ll either love or hate the extroverted exterior design, but the XM’s performance is undeniably pleasing. It may be an SUV, but it’s one that looks unique and elicits laughs and audibles. wow behind the wheel. What’s not to love about it, especially when M is still giving us cars like the M2, M4 CSL and M8?
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