The most expensive BMW money can buy, the most powerful M car ever made and only the second ever M-only model after the 1970s M1 supercar.
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 M Division power like never before. Sounds a bit like those diet plans that claim you can eat all the cake and chips you want and still be shredded enough to pull off an Oscar-winning performance as a comic book superhero.
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In fairness, BMW has done the ‘get your long, compromised SUV cake and eat it’ trick before, with the original X5 and then the X6. Those cars uprooted the goalposts for what was expected of how a big, heavy, high-riding car handled, and didn’t hurt BMW’s bottom line either. That’s why there’s now a bijou X1, a huge X7 and every number in between is covered. There is even an electric crossover: the iX.
So why isn’t the XM called the X8, for example? BMW’s engineers say it’s because simply giving the next number underestimates how much oomph and extravagance the XM offers (and calling it the X93,421 would have looked a bit messy).
This is also the car with which the M Division enters the plug-in hybrid universe – poised for rapid expansion in the next model cycle as the M5 and replacements for the X5M and X6M transform into petrol-electric mutants with staggering powers.
How powerful is the XM?
Buying a car that says ‘get out of my way’ as menacingly as the XM, you’d expect a large amount of power. And you get it. Behind those massive LED-lit nostrils is M’s twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8, developing 482 horsepower. It is powered by an electric motor nested in the gearbox, for a total of 644 horsepower and 590 lb ft. That’s enough to kick your 2,710kg Personal Uncertainty from 0-100km/h in 4.3 seconds and gallop through to 280km/h.
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You’re unlikely to need a faster super SUV, but BMW built one anyway. To be sure. No XM Competition, but an XM ‘Label Red’. It develops 745 horsepower.
Why does the XM look so aggressive?
Because the biggest market for this car will be the US, followed by China. Look at a news bulletin lately and you would think that those countries have little or nothing in common, in terms of opinion. But at least they agree on the 4×4 design: no grille too full, no bodywork too muscular, no alloy wheel too big.
BMW insists the XM has a coupe-like roofline and caps off the M1 with the twin circular badges etched into the rear window, but that’s like claiming the Burj Khalifa pays homage to Egypt’s pyramids because they both are pointed at the top.
This is perhaps the most obnoxious-looking car ever conceived, and while you might call that brave or daring, there’s no getting around the XM inviting people to judge you. It challenges anyone looking forward to respond with hate.
Would you choose to transport your beloved family in a vehicle that elicits so much contempt at a time when the planet is once again ravaged by crisis and divided?
What’s the verdict?
“Most of the time we grudgingly respect the technique that lies beneath. The XM is the first X car not to enjoy that reprieve”
The XM predisposes anyone to dislike it for looking mean. But BMW has shape for bolshy-looking SUVs that then court you with sport saloon handling and grown-up cabins. What’s surprising about the XM is that he lacks the raw talent to earn his forgiveness. There is a sense that this car has been asked too much – to tie in too many different customer groups for a board meeting somewhere in Munich.
It’s too stiff to be a luxury car, and too compromised to be a performance car. M cars used to be characterized by high-revving motorsport-derived engines, and later by innate chassis balance and enormous configurability. Not only is the XM clunky to look at: it also drives with a hammered, heavy hand.
An X5M is a superior car to drive, an iX is definitely the preferred one to travel in, and if you want a plug-in hybrid super SUV, Porsche’s aging Cayenne Turbo S e-Hybrid (due in summer 2023 gets a major update and range boost) is a much more well-rounded device. Each costs significantly less than the XM.
Apparently order books are already bulging, which will be all the justification BMW needs to say it has the pitch for the XM spot. And it’s far from alone: Purosangue, Urus, Bentayga, Cullinan… super SUVs are money printers. Even if the hopelessly vulgar image seems hopelessly out of step with the cars the world really needs right now.
Most of the time we grudgingly respect the technique that lies beneath. The XM is the first X car not to enjoy that reprieve. BMW’s engineers have done their best, but the more you play with the XM’s modes and try to unlock its potential, the more you’d suspect that the folks who brought us the stunning M5 CS and awesome M3 Touring through the greed are sold. from the marketing department.