As a fusion of style, luxury and speed, adorned with electrification, the 2023 BMW XM takes a while to digest. Being a plug-in hybrid SUV, this is already an acquired taste. But as the new flagship of the company’s M performance division – not to mention its first custom model since the M1 supercar of the 1970s – the XM has raised eyebrows since it debuted as a concept in 2021. and not just for its illuminated kidney grills and dazzling body jewelry. We’ve been eager to sample a production version ever since we drove a development prototype last year. Now we have, and we wonder if there are a few too many ingredients in the mix.
You’ll have to shell out a steep $159,995 base price to dine with the XM. This is a fat two-row SUV, weighing in at an estimated 6100 pounds, which is several hundred pounds more than the last three-row X7 we tested. Mechanically related to that model and the smaller X5 and X6, the XM shares its 122.2-inch wheelbase with its bigger brother, but is 2.4 inches shorter, a bit wider and with a roofline 3.1 inches lower . It’s a big vehicle, although it manages its visual power well, especially if you opt for a darker color and forego the no-cost NightGold Metallic exterior trim.
Despite its flashy photos and range of BMW Individual paint options, the XM can look attractively muted if you like. Staggered summer tires wrapped around massive 23-inch wheels, which can also be finished in gold, are standard, with 22-inchers optional. As on other M models, all-season tires are not offered.
Built in Spartanburg, South Carolina, the XM currently only comes in one way: with a total of 644 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque, making it the most powerful BMW SUV available. A more exclusive Label Red version with at least 735 horsepower and a $185,000-plus starting price will be added later this year. For now, the recipe includes 483 horses from a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8, plus an additional 194 ponies via an electric motor sandwiched between the engine and the eight-speed automatic transmission. All that kicks trails through a variable, rear-biased all-wheel drive system, and an electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential. With the help of launch control, an estimated 3.8-second 60 mph time should make the XM about as fleet as an X7 M60i, which gets by with a paltry 523 horses. As you’d expect from a modern BMW, you can change the XM’s flavor through a variety of settings for the drivetrain, suspension, steering effort and brake pedal response.
While many performance SUVs are even faster, few have the XM’s electric-only capability. A large (for a PHEV) lithium-ion battery with 19.2 kWh of usable capacity is located under the floor and should be good for around 30 miles of EV range. EPA figures have yet to be released, but fuel economy will range from thirsty to frugal depending on how you drive it. In Electric mode (there’s also a default Hybrid setting plus an eControl mode that maintains the battery’s charge for later), we can accelerate quickly from stops and join the freeway without stirring the petrol engine. Top speed as an EV is a quoted 87 mph, compared to 155 or 168 mph at full throttle, depending on whether you spring for the $2500 M Driver’s Package. Regenerative braking has two settings—very little and some—with most of the energy recovery neatly blended into the pedal that controls the big six-piston front and single-piston rear brakes. Forget one-pedal driving, but at least the XM’s V-8 isn’t needed for short trips around town. The 7.4 kW on-board charger can top up the battery from zero to 100 percent in about three hours via a 240-volt connection.
Driven like an M car on winding mountain roads, the XM lives up to family tradition. We wish more new BMWs had such smooth, progressive steering, with welcome feedback and a gentle buildup of effort in corners. While the XM’s sheer mass keeps it from feeling overtly noisy, adaptive dampers, 48-volt active anti-roll bars and rear-axle steering help keep it flat and straight around corners. Overall power delivery is strong in Sport mode, with instant help from the electric motor giving the XM extra thrust out of tight corners while helping to fill in the torque gaps between the transmission’s shifts. Those hoping for a deep V-8 rumble may be disappointed, however, as its active exhaust emits a raspy growl more befitting a V-6 (additional V-8 sound effects overlaid with an EV-like hum is fed through the stereo speakers ).
The decision to go with conventional coil springs rather than more adaptive air springs—a call that favors chassis precision over comfort—is problematic for a vehicle that also has a roomy rear seat that BMW refers to as an M Lounge. While far from harsh, the XM’s ride is busy over small, high-frequency bumps, even in Comfort mode on the smooth Arizona pavement of our driving route. Stretched out on the plush rear bench (individual captain’s chairs are not available) with its throw pillows and expansive 40.3 inches of legroom, we could feel a nervousness filtering up through the chassis, spoiling the atmosphere. Likewise, the flat rear seat’s lack of lateral support means you’ll have to brace yourself if your driver decides to have some fun behind the wheel.
That’s not to say the XM’s beautifully finished cabin doesn’t exude opulence. There are artful shapes, soft leather and available contrasting color schemes that flow tastefully from the seats to the door panels and to the geometrically sculpted headliner surrounded by ambient lighting. Luxurious amenities surround the well-appointed front seats, and every driver assistance feature in BMW’s arsenal is present, as is the company’s curved dash display for the latest iDrive 8 infotainment system with tandem 12.3- and 14.9-inch screens under a single pane. Open the hatch (notice the BMW circles etched into the rear window), and there’s a decent 19 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats.
Still, the lack of attention to detail in the second row highlights the XM’s compromises. While heaters for the outboard rear seats and armrests are standard, there’s no seat adjustability, massage function, side window privacy shades or dedicated entertainment system. The remote climate controls in the back of the center console appear to be borrowed from a mass market X5. And unlike virtually every other big-dollar luxury SUV, you can’t customize the XM’s interior beyond the four standard color and trim combinations.
We imagine the XM’s intended customers — 80 percent of which BMW expects to find in the U.S. and China, with many new customers for the brand — won’t be too upset that it’s not as fast and sybaritic as it could be. don’t be The XM’s many goodies, including its respectable EV capability, can be had for thousands less than, say, a Bentley Bentayga or a Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid. But as the pinnacle of the M brand, the XM is less of a treat and more of a hodgepodge of features that leaves a confusing aftertaste. We’ll wait for the fancier Label Red model before making reservations.
2023 BMW XM
Vehicle type: front-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, 4-wheel drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 32-valve 4.4-liter V-8, 483 hp, 479 lb-ft + AC motor, 194 hp, 207 lb-ft (combined output: 644 hp, 590 lb-ft; 19.2-kWh lithium-ion battery pack; 7.4-kW on-board charger)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 122.2 inches
Length: 201.2 inches
Width: 78.9 inches
Height: 69.1 inches
Passenger volume, L/H: 57/54 ft3
Cargo Volume, Rear F/R: 64/19 ft3
Combat weight (C/D east): 6100 lbs.
PERFORMANCE (C/D EAST)
60 mph: 3.8 sec
100 mph: 9.2 sec
1/4-mile: 12.2 sec
Top speed: 155–168 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EAST)
Combined/City/Highway: 19/18/20 mpg
Combined petrol + electricity: 45 MPGe
EV range: 30 miles
Mike Sutton is an editor, writer, test driver and general car geek who has contributed to Car and Driver‘s reverent and irreverent passion for the car since 2008. A native Michigander from suburban Detroit, enjoys the outdoors and complains about the weather, has a love of off-road vehicles, and believes in federal protection for naturally aspirated engines.