However, as you can see, this is no supercar. It’s a huge SUV as BMW looks to fuse the success of its best-selling X cars with M Division power like never before. It 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 deliver an Oscar-winning performance as a comic book superhero.
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In fairness, BMW has pulled off the ‘have your tall, compromised SUV cake and eat it’ trick before with the original X5 and then the X6. These cars radically raised the bar 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 covered. There’s even an electric-only crossover: the iX.
So why is XM called e.g. not X8? BMW’s engineers say that’s because simply giving it the next number up understates how much glitz and extravagance the XM offers (and calling it the X93,421 would have looked a little 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 transform into petrol-electric mutants with staggering power outputs.
How powerful is XM?
If you’re buying a car that declares “go off road” as menacingly as the XM, you’d expect a big lump of power. And you get it. Behind the huge LED-illuminated nostrils lurks the M’s twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8, which develops 482 hp. It’s boosted by a gearbox-embedded electric motor, for a total of 644bhp and 590lb ft. That’s enough to drop your 2,710kg declaration of profound personal insecurity from 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds and keep galloping all the way to 174mph.
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You’re unlikely to need a faster super-SUV, but BMW’s built one anyway. In the case of. Not an XM competition, but an XM ‘Label Red’. It develops 745 horsepower.
Why does XM look so aggressive?
Because the biggest market for this car will be the US, followed by China. Catch a recent news bulletin and you can imagine that these nations have little to nothing in common, opinion-wise. But at least they agree on 4×4 design: no grille is too crowded, no bodywork too musclebound, no alloy wheel too big.
BMW insists the XM has a coupé-like roofline and takes the hood off the M1 with the twin roundel badges etched into the rear window, but that’s like claiming the Burj Khalifa pays tribute to Egypt’s pyramids because they’re both pointed at the top.
This is possibly the most obnoxious car ever conceived, and while you may call it brave or daring, there’s no getting away from the fact that the XM invites people to judge you. It dares anyone who claps its eyes to respond with hatred.
At a time when the planet is once again crisis-ridden and divided, would you choose to transport your beloved family in a vehicle that invites such mockery?
What is the verdict?
“Usually we end up reluctantly respecting the underlying technique. The XM is the first X car not to enjoy that reprieve“
XM predisposes everyone to dislike it because it looks villainous. But BMW has form for SUVs with bolshy looks that then woo you with sports sedan handling and mature cabins. What’s 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 too much – to capture too many different customer groups in a board meeting somewhere in Munich.
It is too stiff to be a luxury car and too compromised to be a benchmark performance car. M cars used to be defined by motorsport-derived, high-revving engines, and later by innate chassis balance and enormous configurability. The XM is not just clumsy to look at: it also drives with a heavy hand.
An X5M is a superior car to drive, an iX is infinitely preferable to travel in, and if you want a plug-in hybrid super-SUV, Porsche’s aging Cayenne Turbo S e-Hybrid (set for a major update and range increase in the summer of 2023 ) is a much more rounded unit. Each costs significantly less than XM.
Apparently the 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 is far from alone: Purosangue, Urus, Bentayga, Cullinan… super-SUVs are money printers. Even if that hopelessly vulgar image seems woefully out of step with the cars the world really needs right now.
Usually we end up reluctantly respecting the underlying technique. The XM is the first X car not to enjoy that reprieve. BMW’s engineers have done their best, but the more you tinker with the XM’s modes and try to unlock its potential, the more you might suspect the people who brought us the superb M5 CS and excellent M3 Touring have been sold down the river of greed by the marketing department on this one.