As a combination of style, luxury and speed adorned with electrification, the BMW XM 2023 takes a while to digest. Being a plug-in-hybrid SUV, it’s already an acquired taste. But as the new flagship of the company’s M performance division—not to mention its first bespoke model since the M1 supercar in the 1970s—the XM has been raising eyebrows since its introduction as a concept in 2021, and not just for its glowing kidney grille and bodywork. which is enchanting. We’ve been keen to try the production version since we drove the development prototype last year. Now we have, and we wonder if there are too many ingredients in the mix.
You’ll have to fork over the hefty $159,995 base price to dine on the XM. This is a fat two-row SUV, weighing in at an estimated 6100 pounds, which is several hundred pounds more than the last three-row X7 we tested. Mechanically related to that model and the smaller X5 and X6, the XM shares a 122.2-inch wheelbase with its larger sibling but is 2.4 inches shorter, slightly wider and with a 3.1-inch lower roofline. This is a big vehicle, though it manages its visual heft well, especially if you opt for a darker color and forgo the no-cost NightGold Metallic exterior trim.
Despite its flashy picture and range of BMW Individual paint options, the XM can look quiet if you want it to. Staggered size summer tires wrapped around large 23-inch wheels, which can also be finished in gold, are standard, with 22-inchers optional. As with other M models, all-season tires are not offered.
Built in Spartanburg, South Carolina, the XM now only comes one way: with a whopping 644 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque, making it the most powerful BMW SUV available. A more exclusive Red Label version with at least 735 horsepower and a $185,000-plus starting price will be added later this year. For now, that recipe includes 483 horses from the twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8, plus an additional 194 horses via an electric motor sandwiched between the engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission. All of that starts its way through a variable all-wheel drive system, rear bias, and an electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential. With the help of launch control, an estimated 60-mph time of 3.8 seconds should make the XM as fleet-footed as the X7 M60i, which can get by with just 523 horses. As you’d expect from a modern BMW, you can change the feel of the XM through various settings for the powertrain, suspension, steering effort and brake pedal response.
While most SUVs perform faster, few have the electric-only capability of the XM. A large lithium-ion battery (for a PHEV) with a usable capacity of 19.2 kWh is under the floor and should be good for around 30 miles of EV range. EPA figures aren’t out yet, but fuel economy will vary from thirsty to thrifty depending on how you drive it. In Electric mode (there’s also a default Hybrid setting as well as an eControl mode that preserves battery charge for later), we can accelerate quickly from a stop and merge onto the highway without messing with the gas engine. Top speed as an EV is 87 mph, compared to 155 or 168 mph at full throttle, depending on whether you get the $2500 M Driver’s package. Regenerative braking has two settings—very little and some—with most of the energy recovery neatly integrated into the control pedal big six-piston front brake and single-piston rear brake. Forget single-pedal drive, but at least the XM’s V-8 isn’t needed for short trips around town. The 7.4-kW onboard charger can recharge the battery from zero to 100 percent in about three hours via a 240-volt outlet.
Driven like an M car on a winding mountain road, the XM lives up to the family tradition. We wish more new BMWs had smooth and progressive steering, with welcome feedback and gentle cornering effort. While the XM’s large mass keeps it from feeling too lively, the adaptive dampers, 48-volt active anti-roll bars, and rear-axle steering help keep it flat and in the corners. Overall power delivery is strong in Sport mode, with immediate assistance from the electric motor giving the XM extra thrust out of tight corners while helping to fill torque gaps between transmission shifts. Those hoping for a deep V-8 rumble may be disappointed, though, as the active exhaust emits a rasping sound more suited to a V-6 (the extra V-8 sound effect layered with an EV-like whir is piped through the stereo speakers).
However, the decision to use conventional coil springs instead of the more compliant air springs—a call that prioritizes chassis precision over comfort—is problematic for a vehicle that also features a spacious rear seat that BMW refers to as the M Lounge. While far from extreme, the XM’s ride was busy over small high-frequency bumps, even in Comfort mode on the smooth Arizona roads of our drive route. Reclining on the comfortable rear bench (individual captain’s chairs are not available) with throw pillows and a generous 40.3 inches of legroom, we could feel the jitters filtering through the chassis, ruining the atmosphere. Likewise, the lack of lateral support of the flat rear seats means you’ll need to brace yourself if your driver decides to have some fun behind the wheel.
That’s not to say the XM’s beautifully finished cabin doesn’t exude riches. There are artful shapes, soft leather, and a contrasting color scheme available that flows attractively from the seats to the door panels and up to the geometrically sculpted headliner surrounded by ambient lighting. Luxurious comfort surrounds the cosseted front seats, and every driver assistance feature in BMW’s arsenal is present, as is the company’s curved dash display for the latest iDrive 8 infotainment system with 12.3- and 14.9-inch screens under a single pane of glass. Open the hatch (notice the BMW circle etched into the rear window), and there’s 19 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats.
Still, the lack of attention to detail in the second row highlights the XM’s compromises. While heaters for the outboard rear seats and armrests are standard, there’s no seat adjustability, massage function, side window privacy shades or dedicated entertainment system to be had. The remote climate controls on the back of the center console appear to be borrowed from the mass-market X5. And unlike almost every other big-priced luxury SUV, you can’t customize the XM’s interior beyond four standard color and trim combos.
We imagine XM’s intended customers—80 percent of whom BMW expects to find in the US and China, with many new customers to the brand—won’t be too upset that it’s not as fast and sybaritic. Many of the XM’s amenities, including respectable EV capabilities, can be found for thousands less than, say, the Bentley Bentayga or the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid. But as the pinnacle of the M brand, the XM is less of a delicacy and more of a feature that leaves a confusing aftertaste. We will wait for the more attractive Red Label model before making an order.
2023 BMW XM
Vehicle Type: front engine, front motor, all wheel drive, 5 passenger, 4 door wagon
twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 32-valve 4.4-liter V-8, 483 hp, 479 lb-ft + AC motor, 194 hp, 207 lb-ft (combined output: 644 hp, 590 lb-ft; lithium 19.2-kWh – ion battery pack; 7.4-kW onboard charger)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 122.2 inches
Length: 201.2 in
Width: 78.9 inches
Height: 69.1 inches
Passenger Volume, F/R: 57/54 feet3
Cargo Volume, Rear F/R: 64/19 ft3
Curb weight (C/D approx): 6100 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
60 mph: 3.8 seconds
100 mph: 9.2 seconds
1/4-Mile: 12.2 seconds
Top Speed: 155–168 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)
Combined/City/Highway: 19/18/20 mpg
Combined Petrol + Electric: 45 MPGe
EV range: 30 mi
Mike Sutton is an editor, writer, test driver and general car nerd who has contributed to Car and DriverReverend and irreverent passion for cars since 2008. A native Michigander from suburban Detroit, he enjoys the outdoors and complains about the weather, is passionate about off-road vehicles, and believes in federal protections for naturally aspirated engines.