The 2023 BMW XM Only Makes Sense as a Toy for the Ultra Rich
Yes, BMW and its M division have heard you, the masses. You’ve stated the XM has questionable-at-best styling and a figurative face that only a mother could love. And even then, that mom would probably keep it behind closed doors whenever possible. They’ve heard its three-ton curb weight is entirely too portly for a supposed performance model, even discounting that it’s a plug-in hybrid with a bulky, twin-turbo V8 under the hood. Yes, they understand your complaints that its $159,000 starting price is entirely too expensive.
While I’m convinced they understand these criticisms, I don’t believe they care. After a week with the 2023 XM, it’s clear M’s first stand-alone model since the M1 supercar is much a showpiece for 1-percenters as a super SUV. And once that’s understood, the XM’s outwardly confusing persona makes perfect sense.
The BMW XM is a class and style statement
The most consistent — and loudest — criticism lodged at the BMW XM is its appearance. A fair grumble, to be sure.
Those kidney grilles — so massive they could seemingly vacuum your neighbor’s carpet from your garage — dominate attention. Still, look beyond them, and the whole front fascia appears wholly disjointed. It’s a front end that seems to have been designed by committee, and rather than whittling down all the ideas, the design team simply added them all. Or at least the most garish of them. And the “look at me” styling, for better or worse, extends to the rest of the super SUV’s bodywork.
That’s why pillarless rear glass and stacked, quad tailpipes extend from budding bodywork. It’s why the XM sports 23-inch, highly textured wheels that can be finished in a golden tint. It’s why the exterior can be finished in Sao Paulo Yellow, a fluorescent hue so bright it was likely inspired by safety gear. However, on the road, it’s so arresting it’s more likely to lead to an accident by blinding other drivers. It’s why a contrasting accent band emerges from the front wheel arches and encases the side glass. Even the door handles aren’t ordinary — they feature a textured, prism-like design.
And it’s no less understated in the cabin. Customizable ambient lighting serves to backlight the textured roof wrapped in Alcantara. The Deep Lagoon and Vintage Coffee merino leather upholstery complete with patterned stitching all around wouldn’t look out of place on a yacht. To add just a little accent, there are matching lumbar pillows for the rear outboard seats. Everywhere you look, an interesting texture, design, or shape garners attention.
The center of the steering wheel might showcase BMW’s roundel, but the XM is unlike any other model to wear that badge. Its looks, both inside and out, are meant to convey, “Look at me, I have arrived.”
I presume the XM’s design team isn’t concerned you don’t like its styling because it wasn’t meant for the masses. It was meant for those with egos so massive they can’t fit inside the XM’s 18.6-cubic-foot cargo hold. The XM looks outlandish because mundane bodywork or a more simplistic design could allow some passersby to not give it a second glance. And the XM must be seen, dammit.
Well, its attention-grabbing styling has worked like a charm. Seemingly, everyone has a strong position on the XM’s appearance, and there is plenty of talk about it in automotive circles. You might not necessarily like the way it looks from the outside, but it’s certainly hard to miss traversing down the road or when pulling up to the local country club.
The XM allows its buyers to announce their arrival well before they’ve managed to park. And with that in mind, its otherwise questionable styling makes perfect sense.
The XM’s absurd driving dynamics
Those willing to dish out the dollars required for the BMW XM aren’t solely concerned with being seen. They also want to be heard. So, the roaring twin-turbo V8 under its sculpted hood provides the perfect soundtrack — unless you’re in all-electric mode, in which the XM will deliver about 30 miles of zero emissions range.
The twin-turbo engine coupled with a 194-hp electric motor pumps out a total of 644 horsepower, good enough to launch the XM from 0-60 mph in 4.1 seconds, BMW claims, but that seems like a conservative figure, even given its heft.
Speaking of which, can you feel the XM’s three-ton curb weight from behind the wheel? Yes, but its agility beguiles its size and weight. BMW M chose to forgo an air suspension, and the traditional springs are up to the task of keeping the XM in check.
Though there’s ample power on tap, steering and brake modulation aren’t ultra-sensitive even in one of the customizable M driving modes. They certainly don’t invoke a lazy feel. Rather, the tuning seems to cater to those who will use the XM as a cruiser more than a corner carver. In these respects, the XM feels wholly refined, but under the surface, it can feel unpolished.
From a stop, the switchover from electric power to the combustion engine feels like you’ve sat bareback on a bucking bronco that is fervently trying to throw you off. With 644 horsepower on tap, modulating the throttle to avoid this bucking is a task best undertaken by seismologists. Press on the throttle gently, and if there’s no juice in the batteries, you’ll just sit there at a red light, unmoving, while drivers behind you wonder why you’ve bought a performance BMW if you’re going to drive it like a Floridian octogenarian. But press down just a bit further, about four nanometers, and the V8 kicks on and sends you directly into the next county before you can manage to get your foot near the brake pedal.
I don’t discount the suspension and chassis engineering obstacles that come with trying to rein in this behemoth with over 600 horsepower. Still, the ride quality isn’t particularly comfortable in everyday driving situations. It won’t break your back, but its massaging front seats come in handy.
Still, good luck turning them on while driving. The XM comes equipped with BMW’s latest iDrive system, and the levels of customization of the curved display are incredible, but the system completely lacks intuitiveness.
When you consider the XM’s performance and rich amenities, these aren’t dealbreakers, but they do give the XM a feel of being about only 90% baked.
For all its flaws, the BWM XM is still endearing
What seems to have gotten lost in the criticisms of the BMW XM is that it is foundationally outlandish. It’s meant to invoke emotion. It’s intended to grab attention, for better or worse. It’s meant to be different.
If you want the ultimate BMW for refinement and size, consider a 7 Series. If you want peak agility and performance, the M4 Competition might be for you. Both can be had for far cheaper than the XM, anyway. However, if you want something that can blend sheer power and raw athleticism with big proportions and peak luxe while remaining altogether removed from anything else you can find at a BMW dealer, the XM fits the bill.
Its styling only continues that philosophy — it underscores that the XM is for those who want to stand out but still want the exclusivity of owning a BMW that is well beyond the means of most. The XM doesn’t need to cost $159,000 for what’s offered, per se. It costs so much that buyers who want to announce they’ve arrived far before they’ve turned off the engine can have the only one on the block, enhancing its attention-arresting abilities.
It’s easy to hate on the XM, but it’s easy to become infatuated with it when you realize it was intended to be a bold departure from the norm. It’s not a typical super SUV. It’s eccentric on purpose.
For that reason, I tip my cap to its audacity.