The most expensive BMW can buy, the most powerful M car ever, and only the second M model ever, after the M1 supercar of the 1970s.
As you can see, this is not a supercar. A formidable SUV, BMW is seeking to drive the success of its best-selling X cars with M Division power like never before. It feels similar to those diet plans that claim you can eat all the donuts and chips you want and still end up ripped enough to turn in an Oscar-winning performance as a comic book superhero.
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In fairness, BMW has done the ‘get and eat your tall, compromised SUV cake’ trick before, with the original X5 and then the X6. Those cars ripped out the goalposts for what would be expected of how a big, heavy, high-riding car should handle, and they didn’t do BMW any harm either. Which is why there is now bijou X1, massive X7 and every number in between covered. There’s even an all-electric crossover: the iX.
So why isn’t XM called, say, X8? BMW engineers say this is because simply giving it the next number shows how much extravagance and oomph the XM has to offer (and calling it the X93,421 would sound a bit messy).
This is also the car that brings the M division into the plug-in hybrid universe – set to expand rapidly in the next model cycle as the M5 and replacements for the X5M and X6M turn into petrol-electric mutants with amazing power outputs.
How strong is XM?
If you’re buying a car that proclaims “get out of my way” just like the XM, you’ll expect plenty of power. And you get it. Behind the massive LED-illuminated nostrils lies M’s twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8, which develops 482 horsepower. It’s boosted by a gearbox-mounted electric motor, for a total of 644 horsepower and 590 lb-ft. That’s enough to propel your 2,710kg personal deep personal insecurities from 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds and keep sprinting all the way to 174mph.
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It’s unlikely you’ll ever need a super-fast SUV, but BMW built one anyway. just in case. Not an XM competition, but an XM red flag. It develops 745 hp.
Why does XM sound so aggressive?
Because the largest market for this car will be the United States, followed by China. Check out a recent newsletter and you would imagine that these countries have very little in common in terms of opinion. But they at least agree on the all-wheel-drive design: no grille too congested, no chassis too muscular, no alloy wheels too big.
BMW insists the XM has a coupe roofline and ditches its roof to the M1 with twin circular badging etched into the rear window, but that’s like claiming that the Burj Khalifa pays homage to Egypt’s pyramids because they’re both tapering at the apex.
This is quite possibly the most obnoxious car ever devised, and while you could call it brave or daring, there’s no escaping the fact that the XM is letting people judge you. Anyone who slaps at him dares to respond with hate.
At a time when the planet is once again ravaged by crisis and division, would you choose to transport your beloved family in a vehicle that invokes such disdain?
What is the ruling?
“Usually, we end up begrudgingly respecting the architecture that lies beneath. The XM is the first X to not have this reprieve“
XM makes everyone hate him because he looks villainous. But BMW has the makings of a sleek-looking SUV that then draws you in with its sporty saloon handling and mature cabins. What is surprising about XM is that it lacks the raw talent to earn its forgiveness. There is a sense that this car has been asked to do a lot – to ensnare several different customer groups at a board meeting somewhere in Munich.
It’s too solid to be a luxury car, and too vulnerable to be a standard performance car. M cars were defined by high-revving motorsport-derived engines, and finally by innate chassis balance and huge adaptability. The XM isn’t just clumsy to look at: it also drives with a heavy hand.
The X5M is a superior car to drive, the iX is a no-nonsense favorite to travel, and if you want Porsche’s aging hybrid SUV hybrid (it’s set for a major refresh and range increase in the summer of 2023) it’s a more well-rounded machine. Each cost much less than XM.
The order books are clearly already bloated, and that would be all the justification BMW needs to say it’s got the right ballpark for the XM spot. And it is far from alone: Purosangue, Urus, Bentayga, Cullinan … Super SUVs are money printers. Even if the cliched image seems hopelessly far from the cars the world really needs right now.
Usually, we end up begrudgingly respecting the architecture that lies beneath. The XM is the first X to not have this reprieve. BMW’s engineers did their best, but the more I fiddled with the XM’s poses and tried to unleash its potential, the greater the suspicion that the people who brought us the amazing M5 CS and gorgeous M3 Touring were sold down the river because of the greed of the marketing department on this.