by Karl Furlong
For all the criticism BMW has faced regarding its design choices over the last couple of years - or decades, if one goes back to the Bangle era - people continue to buy them in droves. So, despite the BMW XM's outrageous appearance, we have little doubt that this milestone M car will be yet another resounding sales success.
Many have bemoaned the fact that BMW chose an obscenely heavy SUV to be its first standalone M car since the iconic M1 but, ignoring its defiance of multiple M car rules for a moment, it's hard not to be impressed by a 735-horsepower V8 plug-in hybrid powertrain. The standard model doles out 644 hp and will get to 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds. With a sky-high starting price of $159,000, it's still cheaper than other super SUVs like the Aston Martin DBX707. It's a car of firsts for BMW M, not all of them welcome, but the XM will be talked about for years to come.
See trim levels and configurations:
Now fully revealed, the official release date for the BMW XM is sometime in the first quarter of 2023. However, production will already start late in 2022 at Plant Spartanburg in California. Once the standard XM has had its coming out party, the more powerful XM Label Red will be revealed and that goes into production in the summer of 2023.
This is BMW's most expensive SUV ever. The price of the 2023 BMW XM will start at $159,000 MSRP excluding a destination and handling charge of $995 in the USA. BMW has been less specific about the price of the XM Label Red but says it will cost "over $185,000."
Mercedes-Benz doesn't actually have a direct rival for the 2023 XM since the GLS is a three-row vehicle and the GLE is smaller, but for similar money, one could drive off in a Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 SUV. It's not as powerful as the BMW and places the focus on sheer luxury rather than dynamism, but many will prefer its subtler design.
A more direct comparison comes in the form of the Lamborghini Urus. It starts at way over $200,000 so is pricier, but even though it's less powerful, the Urus is lighter by over 1,000 pounds. It should be more enjoyable to drive, if not as opulent as the XM. Other super SUV rivals include the new Ferrari Purosangue and the far sexier Aston Martin DBX707.
Where do we begin? Even over-the-top tuners like Mansory would struggle to conjure up a more excessive iteration of the new BMW XM SUV, since every panel and vent already seems to be screaming for one's attention.
We'll start with the one positive: the exterior of the BMW XM is an improvement over the frankly terrifying Concept XM, but the production model is still the lesser of two evils. In isolation, elements like the split headlights - similar to the ones on the latest X7 - and the upright, imposing profile work to some degree. It's just that the combination of everything remains wildly incongruous.
The octagonal grilles have horizontal slats like other M performance models and are smaller than on the concept, but still massive. Chintzy NightGold Metallic exterior trim is overdone, to say the least, and a model pictured with an all-black exterior already looks better. Even the wheels have a controversial design exacerbated by their 23-inch size, but 22s are available.
Staying with the side profile, the heavy-handed wheel arch cladding adds unnecessary chunkiness. The door handles and side charging port deserve a round of applause, though, as these are two of very few elements that look as if they could've come off a "normal" car.
At the back, there are new quad tailpipes in an unusual stacked configuration on either side of a large diffuser. The 3D-effect taillight clusters are quite cool and the upper portion of the rear-end is actually clean, but the BMW logos that have been engraved into the rear window fail to come off as a convincing tribute to the M1.
The variety of BMW XM colors includes seven launch shades but many more via the BMW Individual palette. Without a doubt, this is a vehicle that will be extremely sensitive to spec.
For a two-row SUV, the dimensions of the BMW XM relay just how large it is. It measures 201.2 inches in length which is 2.4 inches shorter than the three-row X7. The XM has a width of 78.9 inches, 0.2 inches more than the X7, and is 69.1 inches in height. Its wheelbase stretches 122.2 inches.
If you want to attempt misguided off-roading expeditions and also send unsuspecting wildlife running in the other direction in abject fear, there are 8.7 inches of ground clearance to work with.
That said, if you do get stuck on a muddy trail, you'll need something enormously powerful to dislodge the XM as it has a curb weight of 6,062 pounds. A base X7 is over 500 lbs lighter and the almost identically sized Lamborghini Urus carries over 1,100 lbs less weight around with it. This is a BMW that weighs within a hair of the V12-powered fortress that is the Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
The excess that is this BMW carries over into the engine compartment. This is the first high-performance BMW M model with an electrified powertrain, a group that excludes "M-lite" models such as the M340i that uses a mild-hybrid system.
In the BMW XM engine bay is a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 that produces 483 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque on its own, but it is supplemented by a synchronous electric motor that has been integrated into the transmission. This electric motor contributes a further 194 hp and 207 lb-ft, and the combined output is 644 hp at 5,400 rpm and 590 lb-ft all the way from 1,600 rpm to 5,000 rpm.
With an eight-speed automatic transmission and the xDrive all-wheel-drive system, the XM will launch itself from 0-60 mph in 4.1 seconds and reach a top speed limited to 155 mph. With the optional M Driver's package, the top speed rises to 168 mph. Running on electric power alone, a top speed of 87 mph is possible. The electric motor has a pre-gearing stage that increases its torque to 332 lb-ft, which has benefits for acceleration off the line and overtaking at higher speeds. A wet multi-plate separation clutch also helps to make the transition between gas and electric power smoother.
For all its power and dramatic design, it's not nearly as quick as several other SUVs, but waiting in the wings is an even more powerful version of the XM.
Known as the XM Label Red, this high-performance version of the XM will feature "over" 735 bhp and 735 lb-ft of torque, so a 0-60 time of around 3.5 seconds looks likely.
With an adaptive M suspension, rear-wheel steering, and a battery mounted in the underbody to keep the center of gravity low, BMW has pulled out all the stops to counter the XM's weight. Of course, we'll have to get behind the wheel to determine if it has worked.
No EPA ratings have been shared yet, but the 4.4-liter V8 coupled with a substantial curb weight will limit the XM's range. BMW does, however, anticipate an all-electric range of around 30 miles according to preliminary tests that are based on the EPA's own testing procedure.
In the lighter X7 M50i, which also has a 4.4-liter V8, the BMW returns 17 mpg combined, so the XM's V8 on its own is unlikely to return much better than 15 mpg combined. Between the electric motor and the 18.2-gallon gas tank, the XM's range shouldn't be too dire.
The 29.5 kWh lithium-ion battery can be recharged from zero to 100% in around 3.25 hours. That's with 7.4 kW AC charging.
With the latest 4 Series and 2 Series, we've seen how BMW has juxtaposed controversial sheetmetal with surprisingly restrained interiors. This approach has not extended to the XM, which is as expressive inside as it is outside.
The Curved Display is a feature of many modern Bimmers and now finds its way into the interior of the BMW XM too. Running iDrive 8 software and with M-specific graphics adorning the screens, it has all the connectivity features you could possibly ask for. The brand's Live Cockpit Professional also comes as standard equipment.
Austere black and gray interiors are commonplace in Germany, but the XM seen here has gone off in an entirely different direction with a brown upper cabin contrasted with a special blue lower down. It's either the apex of modern luxury or offensively garish depending on your point of view, but as with the rest of this bizarre machine, there is no middle ground.
The plush BMW XM seats do look comfortable, though, and BMW Individual Merino leather is standard. We were already blown away by the quality of the iX's interior, and the XM could be a new benchmark for the brand in this area with its Alcantara sculptural headliner, upper sections in Nappa leather, and pillars also in Alcantara. The fiber-optic light guides with 100 LEDs are integrated into the headliner, but even this feature is showy and lacks the charming elegance of the Starlight Headliner in a Rolls-Royce.
At the back is what's called the M Lounge, which suggests that BMW has paid more attention to rear-seat comfort than is typical in an M car. The outboard seats should be comfier than the center seat, and there is everything from three-dimensional diamond quilting to seat heating for these seats and the side panels.
No mention was made of specs relating to the cargo space in the BMW XM but it should be practical enough for daily errands.
With its ostentatious aesthetics and BMW's own positioning of the XM as a halo model, the new SUV will not sit well with many purists. The people buying such a vehicle are unlikely to care, though.