BMW XM — A heavyweight with electrification

By Jim Meachen editor

(May 7, 2023) The news of a modern dedicated M vehicle from BMW had us scramble to Google to garner some facts and observations from the M Division's last dedicated product, way back in 1978 — the much-awarded M1 sports car. It weighed in at about 3,000 pounds and developed 274 horsepower from a mid-engine 3.5-liter straight six mated to a five-speed manual transmission. Its numbers — 0 to 60 in about 5.5 seconds with a top speed of 162 mph, outstanding 45 years ago.

Oh man, what would a modern 2023 M vehicle look like? Well, forget the mid-engine BMW of yore. Wipe visions of the greatest BMW sports car ever made from your mind. Now for the M's second trick is a three-ton plug-in hybrid SUV with BMW's vaunted twin-turbocharged V-8 making 483 horsepower together with a 194-horsepower electric motor creating 644 ponies and 590 pound-feet of torque.

It is currently the most powerful BMW SUV in the world. But what happened to what could have been the world's best sports car for under, say, $200 grand? This is after-all the SUV crossover age — and so we have the XM.

An eight-speed automatic transmission directs the 644 horses to all four wheels. Packaged inside the transmission case, the electric motor pulls from a 25.7-kWh battery mounted in the underbody. BMW says if you take the time to plug in overnight, the XM has an electric range of up to 30 miles.

Thanks to launch control and the added benefit of all-wheel-drive traction, BMW says the XM will rocket from 0 to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds and hustle its way to a 155 mph top speed, should you find a safe place to awake this sleeping giant. By the way, top speed in electric-only mode is a more practical 87 mph.

It is an unusual SUV — particularly for BMW — with its dazzling body jewelry, illuminated kidney grilles, a plug-in electric motor, twin-turbocharged V-8, and the entire M Division parts bin of go-fast goodies together with an astounding base price of $159,995. Our test vehicle with a few options brought the bottom line to $168,395. Wow!

Our rendition of the XM came with NightGold Metallic trim on Cape York Green Metallic paint with 23-inch NightGold wheels. It's possible to purchase a less ostentatious XM. For instance a deep Black is available. Maybe not up to the bling standards of our tester, but a solid choice to us and exactly the way to dress the most powerful BMW SUV.

The XM is slightly larger than the current-generation X5 and a little smaller than the X7. It seats five and is about 50 percent more expensive than a top-spec X7. We wondered through our week piloting the XM just how fast it would be by shedding some of its 6,000 pounds? Perhaps the answer comes with the 2023 BMW X5 M Competition with a 617-horsepower twin-turbo V-8, which is about 700 pounds lighter and has been tested at 3.6 seconds from 0-to-60. And it's about $45,000 less expensive with a starting price of $115,000.

It's as luxurious inside as outside with impeccable fit and finish including outstanding seats that, by the way, include a massage function for the front seat occupants. BMW calls the second row living space the "BMW lounge."

While the exterior treatment was a bit over the top for us, the interior with a rich leather and blue combination should be in the running for best interior of the year. For the record it's called "Deep Lagoon and Vintage Coffee Merino Leather." The leather covers the upper sections of the instrument panel and door panels looking like it's been lifted straight off lounging chairs in the most expensive clubs in the world.

In place of a large panoramic sunroof, the XM can be had with a geometric-patterned faux-suede headliner that features fiber-optic lighting used to dramatic effect. We liked the dramatic blue color and got several favorable comments. An optional audio upgrade adds a Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System with tweeters that illuminate. We were lucky enough to have this option on the test vehicle because it treated us to clean, crisp audio

A large, curved display stretches across two-thirds of the dashboard. The display serves as both a digital gauge cluster as well as an on-board infotainment center, and It runs BMW's latest iDrive 8.5 software interface. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.

We have a few nitpicks with the layout. For instance, heated and cooled seat controls are buried in a "climate" screen while the massage functions for both front seats are physical buttons in plain sight. Does that mean BMW puts more emphasis on massaging seats than heated seats? Seems backwards to us.

One thing we really like the comes in many new BMW vehicles is the row of 10 redundant radio pre-set buttons that, once set, are easy to use without the driver distraction going to theinfotainment screen settings. Those buttons are not included with the XM, perhaps to give the dashboard a more streamlined look.

Bottom line: The XM was a hoot to drive. It attracted more attention than any vehicle we've tested in recent memory. The big downside is a price tag that boggles the mind.

FYI: If you desire more performance in the XM, it's coming next year in the form of Label Red that is expected to have at least 735 horsepower and a starting price of $185,000.

Ted Biederman contributed to this review

2023 BMW XM


Base price: $159,995; as driven, $168,395
Engine: 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8, electric motor
Horsepower: 644 @ 5,400 rpm
Torque: 590 pound-feet @ 1,600 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: four-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 122.2 inches
Length: 201.2 inches
Curb weight: 6,062 pounds
Turning circle: 41 feet
Luggage capacity: 18.6 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 64.3 cubic feet
Towing capacity: NA
Fuel capacity: 18.2 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 14 combined (gas only) 46MPGe Electric + gas
0-60: 4.1 seconds (BMW)
Also consider: Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Audi SQ8, BMW X5 M Competition

The Good
• Massive power
• Beautiful interior furnishings
• 30 miles of all-electric driving

The Bad
• Love-it-or-hate it styling

The Ugly
• Massive price tag