It's the most expensive and most powerful BMW SUV ever, but does any of that matter when it looks like this?
Is this the moment that BMW fans have been anticipating or fearing? Probably the latter, if you've read any of the emotionally charged comments that have been circulating since the Concept XM was revealed almost a year ago. In this, BMW M's 50th-anniversary year that has already given us such wondrous models like the new M4 CSL, the XM is supposed to be the one to rule them all. This is the first high-performance BMW M model with an electrified powertrain, and it has more combined horsepower than the M5 CS, which was the most powerful M car ever up to now. But before we get into the technical specifications that are undoubtedly impressive, we must digest the XM's brazen design.
As expected, BMW has toned down some of the concept's outlandish styling cues. The grille is smaller but hardly subtle, there is a more obvious split-headlight design as seen on the X7, and the taillights are much sleeker now and don't extend as deeply into the rear fenders. There is still a lot going on in a busy design that is shockingly elaborate in places, but in no way is this an elegant piece of penmanship.
As with other high-performance M models, the grille has horizontal bars within its octagonal contours. Each kidney has an outer border in high-gloss black, and the inner surround features illumination. Adaptive LED headlights are standard, and the daytime driving lights are the ultra-slim clusters situated higher up.
Whether from the front, side, or back, it's the intricate shapes around the XM's lower body that are so visually impactful. In front are larger than life air intakes, the almost square wheel arches dominate the side view, and vertically stacked exhaust outlets deviate on either side of a large diffuser from the more conventional ones found on other M cars. 23-inch alloy wheels are hard to miss, but we hope that the optional 22s have a prettier design. At the back, there is a depression in the roof and BMW logos have been engraved into the rear window itself using a unique laser engraving technique. This in itself is a poor tribute to the first-ever pure M car from BMW in the form of the M1.
BMW will make seven colors available at launch, but more are coming later, with over 50 BMW Individual shades on the menu. Notable here is the available NightGold Metallic exterior trim that extends to the accent bands on the sides, the grille's border, and the diffuser elements. We'd like to see an XM without this option as it adds more complexity to an already convoluted design, but the hip hop crowd will probably love it.
In terms of size, the new BMW XM is very close to the X7, but remember that the X7 is a dedicated three-row vehicle. As a two-row SUV, the XM measures a substantial 201.2 inches in length (2.4 inches shorter than the base X7), 78.9 inches wide (0.2 inches wider than the X7), and 69.1 inches tall (3.1 inches less than the X7).
There is no contest in terms of curb weight, though, and you won't find a heavier new BMW anywhere. The XM weighs 6,062 pounds, over 500 lbs more than the base X7. It will be interesting to see if BMW has been able to manage this heft effectively when driving the XM as an M car should be driven.
It's time to move away from the design and talk about the XM's plug-in hybrid powertrain, then. This consists of a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine making 483 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque on its own, along with a synchronous electric motor integrated into the transmission that contributes 194 hp and 207 lb-ft. Combined, the powertrain generates 644 hp at 5,400 rpm and 590 lb-ft between 1,600 and 5,000 rpm. That's a lot of power, but what about the 750 horses we were expecting? Worry not, as a new XM Label Red is coming with 735 bhp and 735 lb-ft.
The Label Red will be the first in a series of XM Label models and will only be available for a limited period. Previous reports suggest Label Blue and Label Black models will also arrive, but BMW has not yet confirmed this.
As for the regular XM, BMW claims a 0-60 mph time of 4.1 seconds and a top speed limited to 155 mph or 168 mph with the optional M Driver's package. In pure electric mode, the XM can reach 87 mph. No figures have been claimed for the Label Red.
The rest of the mechanical package is made up of an eight-speed M Steptronic automatic transmission with Drivelogic, an adaptive M suspension, and the M xDrive all-wheel-drive system.
Regarding the electric motor, BMW makes special mention of a pre-gearing stage that can increase this motor's torque to 332 lb-ft at the transmission input, giving it the power of a far larger unit. It also benefits hard acceleration off the line and overtaking on the highway.
Mounted in the underbody is a 29.5 kWh lithium-ion battery that can be replenished from zero to 100% in 3.25 hours with AC charging at up to 7.4 kW. A predictive heat management system will warm or cool the battery as required based on data like outside temperature and the remaining range.
The transmission is another first from BMW M as it channels both the V8's power and the drive torque from the electric motor to prioritize comfort, efficiency, or power. To prevent the sometimes jarring switchover to gas power in a PHEV, BMW has used a wet multi-plate separation clutch that makes these transitions smoother.
As in smaller M cars, the xDrive system is a rear-biased setup that promises sportier handling. 4WD is the default mode, but 4WD Sport mode sends more power to the rear, and 4WD Sand is a traction-optimized setting for "driving over dunes" or similar - not something we see the XM indulging in too frequently. Don't go looking for the M5's RWD-only mode, though.
A nearly 50/50 weight distribution, an electronically controlled differential lock in the rear axle, active roll stabilization, and standard Integral Active Steering - another M car first - should help the XM handle better than its weight would suggest. The active steering can turn the rear wheels to improve agility at lower speeds.
Moving into the cabin, the curved dual-screen layout, iDrive controller, and transmission shifter are familiar to other new BMWs, but the XM has a unique design and what appears to be some of the best materials found inside any BMW. Carbon fiber sits alongside lashings of pearl-effect chrome, a sculptural headliner in Alcantara, and standard BMW Individual Merino leather.
Upper sections are upholstered in Nappa leather, and even the pillars have an Alcantara covering. One of the many color choices is Vintage Coffee Full Merino leather. Fiber-optic light guides with 100 LEDs are integrated into the headliner, too.
iDrive 8 is standard, as is the BMW Live Cockpit Professional with M-specific graphics and a head-up display. An evasion assistant and lane departure warning form part of the driver-assist suite, but active cruise control and much more will come as options. BMW calls the rear-seat area its M Lounge, and here there are two outboard seats and space for a third passenger in the center. Three-dimensional diamond quilting and available seat heating for the seats and even the side panels will be on offer.
The new XM will likely continue to receive substantial backlash in the months to come, but we've seen how the initially shocking M3/M4 twins' design has gradually become more tolerable. Whether the same thing will happen with the XM remains to be seen, but we somehow don't think BMW will struggle to sell these.
The base MSRP for the XM is $159,000, excluding a $995 destination charge. That's in line with what we expected, making it the priciest BMW SUV yet. As for the limited XM Label Red, that will start at over $185,000.
Whereas the regular XM will start production in the fourth quarter of 2022 in South Carolina before an early 2023 launch, the Label Red will only be revealed after this before going into production in the summer of 2023. BMW will share the details of how to order the XM Label Red at a later stage.