If it weren't badged as a bespoke M car, it would have a few redeeming qualities.
It's now been eight days since I saw the BMW XM in person. I didn't rush into writing this because I didn't want to produce a kneejerk response fueled by emotion. I've already made my feelings on the BMW XM quite clear - at least as far as its position on the throne as a halo for the BMW M brand goes. But I made a point to steer clear of one thing - the XM's design. That's because design is subjective and because professional photos in a studio setting are often not fully representative of a car. No, I wanted to wait until I'd seen it in person to cast my judgment. Now that day has come.
I'm in a very small minority of people who think BMW's new split-headlight face on the 7 Series and X7 isn't that bad. In the right color scheme, I actually like it. But I'm not quite as fond of the XM's adaptation.
The XM's design comes across as kitsch to my eye, wielding too many elements to be described as good design. It's polarizing and screams, "Look at me!" which is exactly what BMW wanted it to do to steal the limelight at events where the Lamborghini Urus and Mercedes-AMG G63 are the staples.
The illuminated grille is smaller than it seems, but the illumination doesn't work as it should. It should either have an illuminated surround or a metal finish, not both. The XM's design is also highly color-dependent, as the grille surrounds and the highlight line around the side windows can be customized from subtle to garish - the gold hue on the car I saw was not to my taste.
The rear of the XM is arguably its best view, but it's far from perfect. The taillight design is a highlight, replete with triple M strakes in the side elements, and while I'm not sold on the vertically-stacked hexagon-morphed tailpipes, hidden behind these finishers are two genuine tailpipes; no faux pipes here. Its most unforgivable flaws from this angle happen at the uppermost edge of the tailgate, where a raised hump on either side of the rear windscreen with laser-etched BMW roundels is not only a poor callback to the M1 this car shares nothing with but also lowers the appearance of the roof, making the XM look proportionately awkward. I'm also unsure of the off-center placement of the XM badge, but can't imagine it would look better positioned anywhere else.
But what photos don't convey at all is just how big the XM is. It's mammoth. Nearly as long as a BMW X7, the XM would only look small alongside a Cadillac Escalade. For its overall design, this does it no favors, and a smaller body might have helped everything gel a little better. But as it stands, it's awkward and ungainly, with too much attention-seeking and not enough tact for my liking.
The interior of the XM is mega plush and mega luxurious. There's space for five in the two-row cabin, and while it's not as rear-seat biased as a Rolls-Royce Cullinan, the rear seats are sumptuous. Climbing into the back, you simply sink into some of the softest leather I've encountered in a motor vehicle in a decade of testing cars. The front seats are equally as comfortable, and all the standard amenities like the latest curved-screen BMW infotainment experience with iDrive 8 can be found here.
Some elements feel out of place, like the dozens of M logos emblazoned everywhere or the M steering wheel with red M1 and M2 buttons for custom-programmed drive modes. They feel out of place because this interior does not feel like an M car.
The rest of the cabin is plush and spacious, and even the 3D-patterned roof - replete with programmable RGB lighting which tells you the sort of new money streamer this was built to attract - feels opulent, albeit in a new school fashion.
The XM will never be experienced on a race track, but for getting where you're going in utmost comfort, I found it hard to fault the interior, steering wheel aside. It even has a large trunk, which you'd hope it would when the wheelbase stretches 122.2 inches and the bodywork an additional 79 inches beyond that.
Like the exterior, it will be very sensitive to spec, and while some design choices will bring out the best of the XM's cabin, I fear that the tasteless options will easily outnumber those with a modicum of sensibility.
Perhaps the only tenuous link to BMW M's motorsport arm you'll find here is that BMW M Boss Frank van Meel claims the XM's powertrain is fundamentally similar to that of the brand's new LMDh hypercar. By that, he means it has a twin-turbo V8 - here measuring 4.4 liters, while in the racer it's only 4.0 liters large - augmented by electricity.
In base form, the XM produces 644 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque, channeling it to all four corners via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. But those numbers will be hampered by its gargantuan weight of 6,062 lbs. A more powerful Label Red will join later with 735 hp and 735 lb-ft, but with best claims of 0-60 mph in 4.1 seconds on the standard car, we hardly think this will be a true performer, especially once it gets to a corner. Rear-wheel steering will help hide some of its size and mass, but you can't overcome physics.
I might have been rather civil in this post, but I still despise what BMW is trying to do by marketing the XM as the second bespoke M car ever. The fact that, on the same day, BMW M's bosses can repeatedly tell me how motorsport is its heritage and then in the same breath tell me the XM will never go on track because it was designed for appearances astounds me.
I think while its exterior is not to my taste, it's not all bad. It is, however, misguided and too gaudy, and discerning buyers will have a more tasteful product if they spec it with a little bit of restraint.
But the interior, that blew me away. Take away the M steering wheel and M badges, which have no place in a car like this, and choose tasteful finishes to augment your subtle exterior design choices, and the XM is truly luxurious.
The exterior of the XM is for those who witness you rolling up to the party, but the interior is for you to enjoy. These two concepts are ones I can't really fault in a world where the likes of Rolls-Royce Cullinan and Bentley Bentayga exist, and they go hand-in-hand for the sort of buyer who prioritizes being seen in the limelight.
But it's not an M car. And it never should've been badged as such. To do so is a tactless cash grab that takes advantage of the M's heritage. It's absolutely perfect for the mumble-rapper crowd of celebrities with more money than taste, however.