Prior to the release of the BMW XM, there was some wonder as to whether it would it truly be special. Sure, we all knew it wasn’t going to be based on any pre-existing BMW, that it was a standalone M car, and that it would be a car of many firsts. However, in reality, when rubber finally met the road, we wondered if it would actually stand out from the rest of BMW’s pack. Now that’s it’s here, let’s find out.

Obviously, we haven’t driven the production car just yet, so we can’t truly compare it to its BMW siblings. But we can compare its design. So I thought it would be best to compare it with the BMW X5 M, which is the closest Bimmer to the XM’s shape, size, and performance. So is the XM more special than the X5 M?

Up Front

BMW XM vs BMW X5 M 4 830x830

Different isn’t always better, nor is it more special, and that’s never been more true than with the BMW XM. Looking at the two cars, it’s clear which one is better looking up front—it’s the X5 M. The XM is different, sure, but it seems different simply for the sake of being different. There isn’t advancement, innovation, or really anything particularly special about the XM’s face. It’s just extra. Extra headlights, extra air intakes, extra inches added to the kidney grilles. It’s like BMW’s board members were like, “We like the current design language but can you just double it?”

From the Side

BMW XM vs BMW X5 M 2 830x830

What’s frustrating to me is that there’s a good looking car in there somewhere. The proportions just seem… off. Specifically, from the B-pillar back. It’s like the two halves of the car were designed by two people who never met. Whereas the X5 M seems cohesive, tight, and well proportioned. Every line, curve, and shape seems to make sense. It’s a handsome, if a bit too understated, performance SUV that should set the standard for BMW’s sporty SUV designs. So it wins here, too.

Out Back

There are a few things that bother me about the XM’s rear. For starters, the lack of BMW emblem freaks me out, especially with the flanking taillights. It kind of looks like Voldemort. The quad, vertically stacked exhausts and rear diffuser aren’t as bad as I thought they’d be, though. However, if I had to choose one, it’d be the X5 M. Its taillights fit the size of the car’s rear end better, its roof spoiler looks more substantial, and its more traditional quad exhausts look better.

Inside

The BMW XM’s cabin is better than the X5 M’s but that’s only because it looks like a flashier version of the X5 M inside. It has the same steering wheel, will soon have the same screens (once the X5 M gets iDrive 8), has the same shift lever, and even has the same infotainment graphics. Since the X5 M’s interior is already very good, the XM’s added styling choices make it a bit better but not by much.

Overall

I think this is an easy one—the BMW X5 M is the better looking car. The BMW XM has many different design elements and bold looks. However, being different and bold for the sake of being different and bold rarely works out. The XM has a ton of flash but lacks substance. While its older, slower, less powerful, and less expensive sibling does have substance.

The X5 M is subtly aggressive. It’s handsome and reserved but clearly packs high performance. It’s Daniel Craig in a tuxedo. Sure, he’s handsome and sophisticated but you can tell he can kick some serious ass. The XM Machine Gun Kelly in a Speedo.