The BMW XM plug-in hybrid has what it takes to compete with performance SUVs like the Lamborghini Urus.
March 17, 2023 on 7:01 PM ET
Jochen Neerpasch probably isn’t thrilled with the idea of a 6,000-pound hybrid SUV serving as the spiritual successor to the beloved BMW M1, which he helped create. But BMW doesn’t want to live in the past, as the company has proven time and time again with its latest offerings. The future is electric, and BMW isn’t afraid to embrace it head-on, ICE followers be damned.
The hybridized 2023 BMW XM is the first in what will be a long line of battery-powered M vehicles. Although it shares next to nothing with historic M cars (especially the M1) and embraces themes once unthinkable in a BMW performance vehicle, the XM is more than deserving of its badge for one reason only: It absolutely breaks.
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|Quick Stats:||2023 BMW XM|
|Engine:||Twin-Turbo 4.4-liter V8 w/single electric motor|
|Production:||664 Horsepower / 590 Pound-feet|
|EV range:||30 miles|
|Basic price:||$159,000 + $995 Destination|
Gallery: 2023 BMW XM: First Drive Review
Powered by a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 and a single electric motor wedged between the engine and transmission, the XM has 664 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. It helps launch this abundance of an SUV to 60 miles per hour in 4.1 seconds. While not as fast as the Aston Martin DBX 707, Lamborghini Urus or even the Bentley Bentayga Speed, the 750bhp Red Label model will ultimately bring the XM closer to that pack.
The XM’s 29.5 kilowatt-hours gross (19.2 kWh usable) lithium-ion battery pack and electric motor help fill the gaps where turbo lag can live—not that this noisy V8 has much of it—and the transition between gas and electric is seamless. I can’t think of any PHEV powertrain that works so perfectly in unison.
The power supply as a whole is impressive. The instant torque from the electric motor makes for remarkable off-the-line quickness, and once the V8 kicks in, the XM quickly cruises to a 7,000 RPM redline. Not that you need to hammer that hard for this SUV to force you into the seatback.
Even when running on just electrons, the XM is sporty and engaging. The electric motor alone produces 194 hp and 207 lb-ft, which is almost as much as you get in a base Volkswagen ID.4, and it comes with all the same sporty drive settings found in hybrid drive mode. There’s even a custom Hans Zimmer acceleration soundtrack (à la iX) that helps it feel more like a spaceship. The XM is good for about 30 miles of range at speeds up to 87 miles per hour. When the plug is connected, the battery is recharged with up to 7.4 kilowatts and can reach 100 from zero in just over three hours.
Despite its hefty curb weight, the XM is an absolute treasure in the corners. Its perfect 50/50 weight distribution makes it feel nimble, and it shrinks around the driver more easily than the comparable X5 M. There’s no understeer and almost no body roll, which is almost unthinkable in a 6,000-pound SUV. BMW opted for a traditional steel suspension here instead of air, 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 help cope with the hefty curb weight. .
The control is exceptional. The XM has a linear and well-weighted steering feel that has a healthy dose of electronic power assist, but it still delivers actual feedback, not like the overly quick and snappy setups of the M3 and M4. The wheel itself also feels a bit larger in diameter, but a bit less chunky compared to other M models, which I personally prefer.
One thing the XM doesn’t offer is one-pedal driving, but there is a two-stage regenerative braking system that generously recovers battery power. When you need to get this big boy down from speed, the brake-by-wire system is perfectly progressive in the standard setting and even adjustable to your driving needs. You can turn up the brakes to be more grippy for harder braking or softer for running around town.
That flexibility applies to all aspects of XM. Unlike the always-on X5 M, the XM won’t break your back over speed bumps or drown the cabin in excessive noise if you keep it in Comfort mode. XM is able to transform from ferocious to calm at the push of a button.
Love it or hate the look
XM is not visually appealing on a mass scale. The split headlights are controversial, but they work a little better here than on the i7 or X7. The kidney grilles are thankfully not as vertical as they are on other M models, but they still take up a ton of front end real estate. And while BMW offers 22-inch wheels on the base XM, the huge 23-inch wheels wrapped in ultra-low-profile rubber look comically large.
Here’s what I like: The two etched round logos in the back glass give a stylish, subtle nod to the M1 (pretty much the only callback). The trapezoidal quad exhaust tips stacked on top of each other at both corners of the bumper are also pretty awesome. But for better or for worse, the XM should have as much visual presence as the equally controversial Urus – and it certainly does.
BMW continues its streak of interior excellence with a sumptuous cabin that oozes hedonism thanks to Merino leather, Alcantara and carbon fiber trim. Quilted stitching covers the front and rear seats, while the rear seat leather even extends seamlessly into the door panels for a unique look and more comfort when turning and talking to your passenger in the back. The XM I drove had beautiful orange Merino leather throughout, but other examples featured XM’s exclusive Vintage Coffee Merino leather, which looked absolutely stunning.
The same geometric 3D headliner from the concept is heading to production, and it’s stunning. The unique textured pattern gives rear passengers something fun to look at, with ambient lighting and “M” elements embedded in the headliner.
And of course, the latest iDrive 8 interface carries over from the iX, the new X7 and others. Projecting atop the same 14.9-inch touchscreen and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster found in these cars, 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 corner-cutting masterpiece of an SUV and a comfortable daily driver, with one of the best, most seamless plug-in hybrid powertrains on the market today. The XM also feels as plush inside as its $159,995 price tag suggests.
Even at that price, though, the XM doesn’t feel unreasonably expensive. Only the RS Q8 is more affordable out of the box, while the Bentley, Porsche and, of course, the Lamborghini are much more expensive than the Bimmer – although they’re also a tad faster.
But in terms of all-around excellence, the 2023 BMW XM absolutely hits the nail on the head. It’s certainly not an M1, but if this is what the future of M Performance looks like, sign me up.
|2023 BMW XM|
|Engine||Twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8|
|Engine||Single Permanently Excited Synchronous|
|Production||664 Horsepower / 590 Pound-feet|
|Drive type||Four-wheel drive|
|Speed 0-60 MPH||4.1 seconds|
|Maximum speed||168 MPH (w/M Driver’s Package)|
|efficiency||16 combined (estimated)|
|EV range||30 miles|
|Charging type||240 volts @ 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)|