The wild-looking 2023 BMW XM is the first vehicle of its kind.
It’s the first dedicated M vehicle with a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) powertrain, and that’s important because this sub-brand’s vehicles represent the pinnacle of performance for BMW. While a big and heavy SUV with a plug might not at first blush be top of mind when thinking of the automaker’s storied M division, as the very nature of performance changes and electrification becomes the norm, BMW has put a lot of effort into making sure this ground-breaking super SUV checks a lot of boxes.
There’s only so much an automaker can do to make an SUV stand out, but BMW has done the absolute most. I haven’t gotten this much attention in a vehicle since the matte red Lamborghini I drove last year. I caught passersby posing for photos with the XM, I saw people on their phones chasing me down on the highway trying to get videos, and I’m certain every chiropractor in my neighbourhood was busy because everyone’s neck was snapping doing double takes as I drove by.
The design of this SUV has divided the internet, but whether you love it or hate it, its flash factor is undeniable. Even the haters have to admit it looks futuristic and about as dramatic as an SUV can be, especially in this tester’s configuration. Starting with the imposing grille, not only is it huge and angular, but it’s also lit up and outlined with a flashy gold trim that’s used throughout the exterior design. The gold trim also outlines the windows and the rear splitter and matches the huge and flashy 23-inch wheels, which are a $2,000 option. Those are the details that help elevate this SUV to elite status.
While the exterior is an exercise in commanding attention, the interior is winning at being indulgent. The deep blue and brown leather combination (a $4,900 option) is lavish, the unlacquered carbon fibre trim adds dimension, and the 3-D patterned faux-suede headliner looks spectacular. The diamond-patterned material is also outlined with animated LED lights, making it an event every time you go for a drive. I also adore the “vintage coffee leather” on the upper door trim and dashboard; it’s treated to enhance the material’s character, meaning no two will be the same. All the interior details are thoughtful and extremely well executed.
The powertrain begins with a 4.4L twin-turbocharged V8 paired with an electric motor and a battery that has around 20 kWh of usable energy. Total system output is a generous 644 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque, and all-wheel drive is standard, with power getting to the ground via an eight-speed transmission. This beast of an SUV is officially rated to accelerate from a standstill to 100 km/h in just 4.3 seconds.
The XM is brutally fast in a straight line and even sounds pretty awesome, though much of the noise is synthetically generated. Even so, BMW’s twin-turbo V8 is one of the smoothest and beefiest around, and when augmented by the PHEV components, it’s pretty much perfect.
Driving Feel: 8/10
Any vehicle with an M badge is supposed to be the most hardcore, the most capable, and the sportiest BMW makes. And while the powertrain is fantastic, the XM’s performance as an M vehicle is where it starts to unravel for me. It has all the ingredients for excellence, but the execution lacks focus for a performance vehicle.
The XM is fully capable of blistering acceleration and bombing through corners, but it’s a massive, heavy vehicle, and you feel every bit of that weight in those corners and very little of what’s happening can be felt through the steering wheel. It simply doesn’t give you that adrenaline-pumping, light-on-its-feet, visceral, and fully ballistic feeling I crave from an M vehicle.
Yes, it has launch control; and yes, you can slide it if you want (don’t ask me how I know), so it’s immensely capable, but I struggled to find the animalistic fun or engagement I want from an M product. My expectations for any vehicle that costs this much are extremely high, so I am definitely nitpicking, but at this price the XM can – and should – afford to have a singular focus and make no compromises.
I’m going to come across like one of those old-school automotive enthusiasts I typically disagree with, but if BMW’s engineers softened up the suspension and didn’t call it an M, I’d be so much more impressed. Or if BMW went in the complete opposite direction and made a wild PHEV two-seat M supercar with this powertrain setup, I’d be over the moon. I just wish I saw more commitment and focus either way from BMW.
As it sits, however, the four-wheel steering makes the XM easier to park and manoeuvre in tight areas, while its coil spring suspension combined with active roll stabilization and adaptive dampers helps keep it flat when cornering in spite of its heft.
The BMW XM has the benefit of being more practical than a typical supercar, yet somehow still isn’t as practical as an SUV needs to be. No one is spending this much on a car for it to be practical, but if it’s an SUV, it has to check certain boxes.
With 527 L in the trunk and 1,820 L with the 40/20/40 seats folded, there’s more than enough room for all your stuff, but the liftover height is weirdly high, so it takes a lot of effort to load and unload. The rear seats also don’t fold flat because of their aggressive bolstering, and they need to be folded manually, which is kind of odd considering the price.
The sport seats are supremely comfortable and offer loads of support, but they are so generously bolstered that it can be a bit tricky for shorter people to enter and exit this high-riding SUV. The cabin is roomy for all occupants, and everyone has all the comfort features BMW has to offer.
The biggest issue affecting comfort is how stiffly sprung the XM is. Even in its most relaxed setting every single bump and crack in the road can be felt and heard, so it’s jarring and uncomfortable, which feels unbecoming of a luxury vehicle. The combination of the stiff suspension, massive wheels, and super low-profile performance tires means the XM feels unnecessarily punishing for a vehicle that’s already so compromised.
Again, for a sports car, it would be entirely forgivable, but an SUV has to have some semblance of comfort, even if it is an M product. I wish BMW used its incredible air suspension in the XM, which I loved in the gas-powered X7 SUV for its versatility.
The BMW XM benefits from the brand’s latest infotainment system, which happens to be one of the most intuitive available. The menus are logical, it doesn’t take too many distracting taps to complete a task, and everything is mostly where you expect it to be. There are three main ways to interact with it: via the responsive touchscreen, the rotary dial/touchpad near the gear selector, and through voice commands and hand gestures.
I’m not a fan of the gear selector itself; I find it finicky and not intuitive to use. My other complaint is that visibility while driving isn’t great. There are huge blind spots everywhere that makes manoeuvring through parking garages and tight city streets a bit nerve-wracking.
The XM is loaded with all the dazzling tech, comfort, and luxury features you’d expect at this price and for a flagship BMW. Everything from massaging and ventilated front seats, seat heaters front and rear, heated front armrests, a head-up display, heated and cooled cup holders, a fancy sound system, customizable ambient lighting, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a drive recorder, parking assistants, a wireless phone charger, and more are included.
The BMW XM comes with a full arsenal of advanced safety and driver assistance features as well, but on multiple occasions they would be warning me of danger when there was no actual threat. I experienced a few random glitches like that from the XM’s safety systems during this test.
Fuel Economy: 8/10
Fully charged, the BMW XM can drive about 50 km on battery power alone. Officially, the XM’s fuel economy is rated at 5.1 Le/100 km when driven on electricity but a high 17.2 L/100 km combined with the twin-turbo V8 alone. During my time with it, I was able to charge it fully three times, and after about 655 km of mixed testing, the XM returned 11.8 L/100 km, which is excellent considering its size and purpose. I recommend charging this SUV as much as possible to get the most from its powertrain.
I drove it predominantly in the default hybrid mode, where the SUV decides when to use electric power, the V8, or both. Drivers can also use electric vehicle (EV) mode to drive on battery power alone at speeds as fast as 140 km/h, or the so-called eControl mode, which uses the V8 as much as possible to preserve battery power or charge it for later. Of the 655 km I drove, 178 km was on EV power alone.
The XM is the most expensive vehicle BMW currently offers. Sitting at the very top of the lineup, the XM starts at a staggering $220,000 before options, the $2,480 destination fee, $22,325 luxury tax, and other levies and fees. The problem here is that when something costs this much, my expectations are sky high. I’ve driven BMWs and Alpinas that cost less money yet feel more focused. If you’re buying for flash factor and straight-line speed, then this BMW is worth every penny, but if you’re buying for performance or luxury, there are other vehicles – both inside and outside of the BMW lineup – that do a more convincing job while costing less.
The 2023 BMW XM is an expression of joy, luxury, technology, and performance, but for something with an M badge on it, it feels like it’s not as focused as it needs to be – especially at this price point. Because it needs to fulfill the requirements of being both a hardcore performance vehicle and a lavish luxury SUV, it ends up not doing either to perfection.
Regardless of my philosophical quandaries about this SUV, I can still completely understand why someone would buy it. It looks crazy unique, the flash factor is through the roof, it’s more practical than a “traditional” supercar, and it’s still very fast and exclusive. That astonishing interior alone almost feels worth the price of admission. BMW deserves a lot of credit for pushing the boundaries of what both electrified performance and luxury can look like, and even though it’s not perfect, this XM remains a triumph of engineering and design.
|Engine Cylinders||Twin-turbo V8 PHEV|
|Peak Horsepower||644 net hp|
|Peak Torque||590 net lb-ft|
|Fuel Economy||19.9 / 13.9 / 17.2 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb (hybrid); 5.1 Le/100 km cmb, 50 km est. range (electric)|
|Cargo Space||527 / 1,820 L seats down|
|Model Tested||2023 BMW XM|
|Price as Tested||$234,980|
$12,400 – Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System, $5,500; Deep Lagoon Merino Leather w/ Vintage Coffee Leather, $4,900; 23-inch Jet Black/Night Gold Wheels, $2,000