The most expensive BMW money can buy, the most powerful M car ever made and only the second pure M model after the M1 supercar of the 1970s.
However, as you can see, this is not a supercar. It’s a huge SUV as BMW tries to combine the success of its best-selling X cars with the performance of the M division like never before. Sounds a bit like those diet plans that claim you can eat as much cake and chips as you want and still end up shredded enough to pull off an Oscar-winning performance as a comic book superhero.
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In fairness, BMW pulled the “have your big, compromised SUV cake and eat it” trick before with the original X5 and then the X6. These cars uprooted the goalposts for what was expected of a big, heavy, high-riding car, and didn’t hurt BMW’s bottom line either. So now there’s a Bijou X1, a giant X7, and every number in between is covered. There’s even an all-electric crossover: the iX.
So why isn’t the XM called, say, the X8? BMW’s engineers say it’s because there’s simply one number up to underestimate just how much panache and extravagance the XM offers (and calling it the X93.421 would have looked a bit messy).
This is also the car that is leading the M division into the plug-in hybrid universe – which will expand rapidly in the next model cycle, when the M5 and successors to the X5M and X6M evolve into petrol-electric mutants with dizzying performance transform.
How powerful is the XM?
When you buy a car that says ‘get out of my way’ quite as menacingly as the XM, you’d expect a big chunk of power. And you get it. Lurking behind those huge LED-lit nostrils is M’s twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 with 482 hp. It is powered by a gear-assisted electric motor that produces a total of 644 hp and 590 lb ft. That’s enough to take your 2,710kg Personal Uncertainty Declaration from 0 to 62mph in 4.3 seconds and continue cantering up to 174mph.
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It’s unlikely you’d need a faster super SUV, but BMW built one anyway. Just in case. No XM Competition, but an XM ‘Label Red’. It develops 745 hp.
Why does the XM look so aggressive?
Because the largest market for this car will be the USA, followed by China. Watch any news program lately and you might imagine these nations have little to nothing in common when it comes to opinion. But they agree, at least when it comes to 4×4 design: no grille is too crowded, no body too muscular, no alloy wheel too big.
BMW insists the XM has a coupé-like roofline, topping its cap on the M1 with the twin round badges engraved into the rear window, but that’s like saying the Burj Khalifa pays homage to the Egyptian pyramids because they’re both pointed are top.
This is quite possibly the most obnoxious car ever created, and while you might call it brave or daring, there’s no escaping the fact that the XM invites people to judge you. It challenges anyone who looks at it to react with hatred.
At a time when the planet is once again plagued by crisis and divided, would you choose to transport your beloved family in a vehicle that invites so much contempt?
What’s the verdict?
“We’re usually grudgingly respectful of the underlying technology. The XM is the first X car not to enjoy this grace period.”
The XM predisposes everyone to not liking it because it looks rogue. But BMW has form for swanky-looking SUVs that then woo you with sporty sedan handling and well-engineered cabins. The surprising thing about the XM is that it lacks the raw talent to earn its forgiveness. One has the feeling that too much has been asked of this car – to involve too many different customer groups in a board meeting somewhere in Munich.
It’s too stiff to be a luxury car and too compromised to be a benchmark performance car. Previously, M cars were defined by high-revving, motorsport-derived engines and more recently by innate chassis balance and tremendous configurability. Not only does the XM look clumsy, it handles with a clumsy, heavy hand.
An X5M is a superior car to drive, an iX is infinitely preferable to travel, and if you want a plug-in hybrid super SUV, Porsche’s aging Cayenne Turbo S e-Hybrid (a major update and an increase in range is planned for summer 2023 ) is a much more rounded device. Each costs significantly less than the XM.
Apparently the order books are already filling up, which will be all it takes for BMW to say it’s nailed the spot for the XM. And it’s far from alone: Purosangue, Urus, Bentayga, Cullinan… Super SUVs are money printers. Even if the hopelessly vulgar image with the cars that the world really needs right now seems to be miserably out of step.
We’re usually grudgingly respectful of the underlying tech. The XM is the first X car not to enjoy this grace period. BMW’s engineers have done their best, but the more you play around with the XM’s modes and try to fulfill its potential, the more you might suspect that the people who brought us the stunning M5 CS and excellent M3 Touring, sold down the river by greed the marketing department on the subject.