. – After more than 50 years as the standard-bearer for BMW performance, M is going electric. Not fully electric, mind you, because the electrification process is a series of baby steps, but the shift is now officially underway with the arrival of the 2023 BMW XM, a range-topping plug-in hybrid SUV that is the first electrified M car.
The two row, five passenger XM shares a common architecture and some componentry with the X5, X6 and X7 SUVs, including its 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 gas engine and ZF-sourced, eight-speed automatic transmission. What separates the XM from its siblings, obviously, is the hybrid part, which is comprised of an electric motor integrated into the eight-speed gearbox, along with a 25.7 kWh useable lithium-ion battery pack. BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system is also standard kit.
The high-revving V8 has been updated for the XM, and features a cross-bank exhaust manifold, a reinforced crankshaft, and a turbocharger located close to the exhaust manifold. A new lightweight plastic oil sump and new oil pump help improve efficiency and reduce emissions.
All told, the 4.4 generates most of the XM’s power, with 489 horsepower at 5,400 rpm, and 479 lb-ft. of peak torque, which is available between 1,600 and 5,400 rpm. Total system output is rated at 653 hp / 590 lb-ft. with a 7,200 rpm redline.
Of note, a more powerful XM LABEL RED variant will arrive this fall, with even gaudier output of 748 total horsepower and 737 lb-ft. of total torque.
In terms of raw numbers, the XM can hit 100 km/h from rest in 4.3 seconds, with a 0-200 km/h sprint clocking in at 14.3 seconds. Its electronically governed top speed is 250 km/h (270 km/h with the optional M Driver’s Package). The top speed for electric-only driving is rated at 140 km/h.
On the chassis front, the XM’s xDrive system splits engine torque independently to all four wheels, and the split is distributed variably between the front and rear axle via an electronically-controlled multi-plate clutch.
The system is rear-biased, despite its 4WD format, and it can be dialled in more aggressively if one were to engage 4WD Sport, which is done by engaging M Dynamic Mode or DSC (dynamic stability control) off mode. An electronically controlled differential lock (M Sport differential) located at the rear axle provides torque vectoring for the rear wheels, that is “need-based”, according to BMW.
Essentially, the M Sport differential helps the XM maintain grip in hard cornering by delivering torque to the outside wheel, which helps the car rotate through corners, tamping down understeer and eliminating the need for braking.
The BMW XM is also outfitted with an adaptive M suspension which includes electronically controlled dampers and active roll stabilization. The latter uses a 48-volt electric motor, powered by supercapacitors to connect the two halves of the anti-roll bar at the front and rear axles.
As for electric range, BMW claims the XM can travel between 82 and 88 kilometres as an EV, according to European WLTP testing, but EPA / NRCan numbers won’t be that generous. Final electric range figures weren’t available at time of writing, but they should be in the 50 km range. On the charging front, BMW says the XM’s battery can be charged from zero to 100 percent in about 4.25 hours with a Level 2 charger.
In terms of appearance, the XM retains much of its concept styling, at least on the outside. Its boxy shape filled with sharp corners, along with a wide stance (at 2,005 mm it is the widest BMW) and massive wheels (23-inchers shown), are like no other BMW.
Viewed from the front, the XM carries forward BMW’s design shift towards a more unique appearance for its high-end models, which was first seen on the new 7 Series models
last year. A redesigned M kidney grille, along with slim notch daytime runners stacked above LED headlights, and large air intakes in the lower fascia, give the XM a style that is very different from its X and M siblings.
Elsewhere, BMW has combined 3D shapes (taillights, door handle trim) with a raft of gold-coloured trim accents that pair with some exterior colours, such as my seafoam (Cape York Green Metallic) tester. These accents, which include the beltline, window trim and outlining around the kidney grille and diffuser, give the XM a more exclusive, and bejewelled, look. In my view, these accents don’t work as well on other shades (M Toronto Red Metallic) as they do with Cape York.
On the inside, the XM offers up an inviting space, filled with fine detail, with a feel that is both luxurious and high-tech. Two large digital displays, a 14.9-inch unit for the instrument cluster and a 12.3-inch unit are fused together into one large curved panel that is angled towards the driver.
Items such as console switch gear, climate controls and steering wheel have a conventional BMW look and feel to these eyes, but the two-tone brown / green colour scheme, which is replete with interesting stitch and grain patterns, are most certainly not run of the mill.
For instance, in the rear seat area, the XM comes with two small pillows, and occupants seated there have a front row seat to view the sculptural headliner, a 3D fabric panel that is framed by customizable ambient lighting. Eschewing a massive panoramic glass roof, which is commonplace in the premium space, in favour of a fixed headliner, albeit a very decorative one, seems a bit risky, but it is unquestionably a bold choice.
For the media drive, BMW split the driving day in half. Our group spent half the day piloting the XM and the other half in the M2 (story coming early next month). I had a driving partner for both, which gave me about two hours seat time in each car on a route that covered about 380 miles (611 km) from Scottsdale to Prescott and back.
Based on that generous amount of seat time, I come away impressed with the XM.
I won’t dwell too much on its aesthetics as the pictures tell the story and people are free to form their own opinions. I will say, however, that I have a favourable view of the XM’s appearance. As an electrified vehicle, I think it’s important for it to have its own identity separate from its gas-powered siblings and I think BMW has achieved that.
As I said, the XM exudes a strong concept ethos, which I think adds to its appeal. On the inside, BMW has created a premium space that is in line with its positioning as a range-topping vehicle. From its large screens to its rich leather and fine plastic and metallic accents, to its sculptural headliner, the XM’s cabin environment is an inviting luxury space.
And on the road, it comports itself very much like its X siblings with M badging. The 4.4-litre V8, aided by the electric motor, slingshots the long and heavy XM along with impressive haste in all driving modes, and when dialled to sport or sport+, it makes a pleasing deep exhaust baritone as it goes about its work.
Dynamic track evaluations weren’t on the agenda for this media drive, so I can’t comment on the XM’s emergency handling. A closed course would have done a much better job of evaluating BMW’s suspension and powertrain wizardry, but I’ll have to wait for a future opportunity before rendering judgement.
On Arizona roads that ranged from moderate to rough and in dire need of repair, the XM felt reasonably quick, responsive, and planted to the tarmac, but I was always aware of the car’s bulk. Electrification adds weight, and I felt it.
In terms of efficiency, my colleague and I averaged 21.1 mpg (11.1 L / 100 km) over 199.6 miles (321 km). Not great for a regular PHEV, but give the XM’s size, weight and V8 power, it’s a decent return.
The last thing to touch on briefly is price. With a base MSRP of $220,000, the XM’s high barrier to entry will limit its appeal. For that amount of money there are a lot of alternatives, even for those who must have the shiniest new toys.
That said, the XM costs about $50K less than a Lamborghini Urus, almost $20K less than a Bentley Bentayga and roughly the same as an Aston Martin DBX.
And none of them come with a plug, which should further enhance the XM’s appeal for those with the means.
The 2023 BMW XM is on sale now.
2023 BMW XM
full-size premium plug-in hybrid SUV
Front-engine, all-wheel drive, 8-speed automatic transmission
4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 + electric motor + lithium-ion battery (653 hp / 590 lb-ft. combined)
(Premium 91+) 19.9 / 13.9 / 17.2 L / 100 km (city / highway / combined)
1,820 / 527 litres (64.2 / 18.6 cu ft.) (behind first / second row)
MAXIMUM TOWING: 5,952 pounds (2,700 kg)
$220,000 base, excl. freight, taxes and fees