The most expensive BMW money can buy, the most powerful M car ever made, and only the second ever M-only model, after the M1 supercar of the 1970s.
As you can see though, this is no supercar. It’s a formidable SUV as BMW looks 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 end up shredded enough to give an Oscar-winning performance as a comic book superhero.
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In fairness, BMW has done the “Have your tall, 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 do BMW’s bottom line any harm either. That’s why there’s now a bijou X1, a formidable X7 and every number in between is covered. There’s even an electric-only crossover: the iX.
So why isn’t the XM called, say, the X8? BMW’s engineers say it’s because simply giving it the next number diminishes how much power and extravagance the XM offers (and calling it the X93,421 would look a bit messy).
This is also the car that moves the M Division into the plug-in hybrid universe – poised to expand rapidly in the next model cycle as the M5 and replacements for the X5M and X6M morph into petrol-electric mutants with dizzying power outputs.
How powerful is the XM?
If you’re buying a car that declares “out of my way” as menacingly as the XM, you’d expect a big pile of power. And you get it. Behind those enormous LED-lit nostrils hides M’s twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8, developing 482bhp. It is boosted by an electric motor placed in a box, for a total of 644 bhp and 590 lb. ft. That’s enough to hurl your 2,710kg statement of profound personal insecurity from 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds and keep galloping up to 174mph.
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It’s unlikely you’d need a faster SUV, but BMW built one anyway. For the occasion. Not XM Competition, but XM ‘Label Red’. It develops 745 horsepower.
Why does the XM look so aggressive?
Because the biggest market for this car will be the United States, followed by China. Catch a news bulletin lately and you’d imagine that those nations have little to nothing in common, opinion-wise. But at least they agree on 4×4 design: no grille is too engorged, no bodywork too muscular, no alloy wheel too wide.
BMW insists the XM has a coupe-ish roofline and takes its hat off to the M1 with the twin round badges etched into the rear window, but that’s like claiming the Burj Khalifa pays homage to Egypt’s pyramids because they’re both topped at the top
This is quite possibly the most badass looking car ever invented, and while you might call that brave or bold, there’s no getting away from the fact that the XM invites people to judge you. It dares anyone who claps on it to respond with hate.
At a time when the planet is once again in crisis and divided, would you choose to transport your beloved family in a vehicle that invites such scorn?
What is the verdict?
“Usually, we end up reluctantly respecting the engineering that lies beneath. The XM is the first X-car not to enjoy that incarceration“
The XM predisposes everyone to dislike it because it looks badass. But BMW has a form for bold-looking SUVs that then woo you with sporty saloon handling and mature cabins. What is surprising about the XM is that it lacks the raw talent to earn its forgiveness. There is a sense that this car is being asked to do too much – to capture too many different customer groups in a board meeting somewhere in Munich.
It’s too stiff to be a luxury car, and too compromised to be a benchmark performance car. M cars used to be defined by high-revving motorsport-derived engines, and more recently by innate chassis poise and immense configurability. The XM isn’t just awkward to look at: it also drives with a ham-fisted heavy hand.
X5M is a taller car to drive, iX is infinitely preferable to travel in, and if you want a plug-in hybrid SUV, Porsche’s aging Cayenne Turbo S e-Hybrid (set for a big update and boost in summer 2023). ) is a much more rounded device. Each costs considerably less than the XM.
Apparently order books are already swelling, which will be all the justification BMW needs to say it has the pitch for the XM spot. And it is far from alone: Purosangue, Urus, Bentayga, Cullinan… super-vans are money printers. Even if the hopelessly vulgar image seems woefully out of step with the cars the world really needs right now.
Usually, we end up reluctantly respecting the engineering that lies beneath. The XM is the first X-car not to enjoy that incarceration. BMW’s engineers did their best, but the more you play with the XM’s modes and try to unlock its potential, the more you might suspect that the people who brought us the amazing M5 CS and excellent M3 Touring were sold along the river because of greed. from the marketing department about this one.