Jochen Neerpasch probably isn't stoked with the idea of a 6,000-pound hybrid SUV acting as the spiritual successor to the beloved BMW M1 that he helped create. But BMW doesn't want to live in the past, as the company has proven time and time again with its most recent offerings. The future is electric and BMW isn't afraid to embrace it head-on, ICE devotees be damned.
The hybridized 2023 BMW XM is the first in what will become a long lineage of battery-powered M vehicles. Although it shares almost nothing with historic M cars (especially the M1) and embraces themes once unimaginable in a BMW performance vehicle, the XM is more than deserving of its badge for one reason only: It absolutely effing rips.
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|2023 BMW XM
|Twin-Turbo 4.4-Liter V8 w/Single Electric Motor
|664 Horsepower / 590 Pound-Feet
|$159,000 + $995 Destination
Gallery: 2023 BMW XM: First Drive Review
Powered by a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 and a single electric motor wedged between the engine and transmission, the XM has 664 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. That helps launch this behemoth of an SUV to 60 miles per hour in 4.1 seconds. While that isn't as quick as the Aston Martin DBX 707, Lamborghini Urus, or even the Bentley Bentayga Speed, the 750-hp Red Label model will eventually bring the XM closer to that bunch.
The XM's 29.5-kilowatt-hour gross (25.7-kWh usable) lithium-ion battery pack and electric motor help fill in the gaps where turbo lag might live – not that this rowdy V8 has much of it – and the transition between gas and electric is seamless. I can't think of any PHEV powertrain that works so perfectly in unison.
Power delivery as a whole is impressive. The instant torque from the electric motor yields remarkable off-the-line quickness, and once the V8 kicks in, the XM races rapidly to a redline of 7,000 RPM. Not that you need to be hammering it that hard for this SUV to force you into the seatback.
Even when running only on electrons, the XM is sporty and engaging. The electric motor alone delivers 194 hp and 207 lb-ft, which is almost as much as you get on a base Volkswagen ID.4, and it comes with all of the same sporty drive settings found in hybrid drive mode. There's even a custom Hans Zimmer acceleration soundtrack (à la the iX) that helps it feel more like a spaceship. The XM is good for around 30 miles of range at speeds of up to 87 miles per hour. Plugging in, the battery will recharge at up to 7.4 kilowatts and can reach 100 from zero in just over three hours.
Despite its hefty curb weight, the XM is an absolute darling in the corners. Its perfect 50/50 weight distribution makes it feel agile, shrinking around the driver more readily than the comparable X5 M. There's no understeer and barely any body roll, which is almost unimaginable in a 6,000-pound SUV. BMW opted for a traditional steel suspension here instead of air but added active anti-roll bars with a 48-volt electrical architecture and rear-wheel steering – 2.5 degrees worth in low and high-speed situations – to help cope with the hefty curb weight.
The steering is exceptional. The XM has linear and well-weighted steering feel that does have a healthy dose of electronic power assist, but it still delivers actual feedback, not like the too-quick and twitchy setups of the M3 and M4. The wheel itself also feels a bit larger in diameter but a bit less chunky compared to other M models, which I personally prefer.
One thing the XM doesn't offer is one-pedal driving, but there is a two-step regenerative braking system that recoups battery power generously. When you need to bring this big boy down from speed, the brake-by-wire system is perfectly progressive in the standard setting and even adjustable to your driving needs. You can dial up the brakes to be grabbier for harder braking or softer for peddling around town.
That flexibility is true of every aspect of the XM. Unlike the always-on X5 M, the XM won’t break your back over speed bumps or drown out the cabin in excessive noise if you keep it in Comfort mode. The XM is able to transform from ferocious to tranquil at the tick of a button.
Love It Or Hate It Looks
The XM isn’t visually appealing on a mass scale. The split headlights are controversial, but they work slightly better here than on the i7 or X7. The kidney grilles aren’t as vertical, thankfully, as they are on other M models, but they still occupy a ton of real estate on the front end. And while BMW offers 22-inch wheels on the base XM, the huge 23-inch wheels wrapped in ultra-low-profile rubber look comically large.
Here’s what I do like: The two etched roundel logos in the rear glass offer a stylish, subtle nod to the M1 (virtually the only callback). The trapezoidal quad exhaust tips stacked on top of each other on either corner of the bumper are pretty awesome, too. But for better or worse, the XM needed to have as much of a visual presence as the equally controversial Urus – and it definitely does.
BMW continues its streak of excellent interiors with a lavish cabin that oozes hedonism thanks to Merino leather, Alcantara, and carbon fiber trim. Quilted stitching covers the front and rear seats while the back bench’s leather even extends seamlessly onto the door panels for a unique look and more comfort when turning and talking to your fellow rear passenger. The XM I drove had beautiful orange Merino leather throughout, but other examples featured the XM’s exclusive Vintage Coffee Merino leather that looked absolutely lovely.
The same geometric 3D headliner from the concept makes its way to production, and it’s awesome. The unique textured pattern gives rear passengers something fun to look at, with ambient lighting and “M” elements embedded within the headliner.
And of course, the latest iDrive 8 interface carries over from the iX, the new X7, and others. It projects atop the same 14.9-inch touchscreen and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster found in those cars, and it’s still clean, concise, and easy to navigate. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are of course wireless.
The BMW XM is impressive. It is equal parts a corner carving masterpiece of an SUV and a comfortable daily driver, with one of the best, most seamless plug-in-hybrid powertrains on the market today. The XM also feels every bit as opulent inside as its $159,995 price tag suggests.
Even at that price, though, the XM doesn’t feel unreasonably expensive. Only the RS Q8 is more affordable out of the box, while Bentley, Porsche, and of course, Lamborghini, are all way pricier than the Bimmer – although they are all a bit quicker, too.
But in terms of all-around excellence, the 2023 BMW XM absolutely hits the nail on the head. It certainly isn’t an M1, but if this is what the future of M Performance looks like, sign me up.
Update: An earlier version of this story listed the usable battery capacity at 19.2 kWh when that figure is actually 25.7 kWh. The story has been updated to reflect that.
BMW XM Competitor Reviews:
2023 BMW XM