The BMW XM makes its debut as the first standalone M product since the M1. That’s some enormous shoes to fill, especially considering the XM doesn’t seem to have a corresponding racing career ahead of it like the ProCar series. But that’s far from the only contradiction in the BMW XM. No, this $170,000 twin-turbo V8 plug-in hybrid offers something for the well-heeled extroverts among us. A vehicle as curiously unfocused as this requires a deftly delicate hand to review objectively. Fearing the worst, I enjoyed a long extended test drive as part of the M Town Tour. Fitting its contradictory engineering, the BMW XM is both better than I expected and exactly what I feared.

BMW XM Performance and Handling

Strap in; the BMW XM is currently the most powerful M vehicle in production. Well, at least until the XM Label Red starts production in August 2023. The primary driving force is a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter S68 V8. It’s supplemented by a 194-horsepower electric motor, together routing 644 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels courtesy of BMW M xDrive. BMW says it hits zero to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds, and I believe them.

From behind the wheel, acceleration is effortless from anywhere in the rev range. Freeway onramps and open stretches are cakewalks for the XM, and the vehicle’s eager – if hefty – chassis urges you to take full advantage of the powerful drivetrain. The ZF eight-speed auto is equally snappy here as it is in other applications. It provides an eager whoomph on upshifts and no-nonsense downshifts in auto or manual modes.

2023 BMW XM

  • Hide its weight well
  • Good handling and driving dynamics
  • Can ride on just electric power
  • Very heavy
  • Polarizing and controversial looks
  • The interior is not much more premium than X7

The XM I drove had 23-inch wheels; I think 22-inch wheels are the way to go. The XM doesn’t ride much better than more focused vehicles like the X5 M and needs all the help it can get. The XM is heavy – over 6,000 pounds – but doesn’t feel much less agile than vehicles like the X7 M60i. While far from the race-ready M1, it does offer predictable oversteer when called upon, and the rear-wheel steering keeps things composed through tight turns. The steering feel is vague, but the weight feels natural, and it’s predictable if you’ve driven other modern M cars.

BMW XM Exterior Impressions 

The exterior design of the XM strikes fear in the heart of enthusiasts and envy in the minds of would-be influencers. While maybe not conventionally beautiful, it definitely attracts attention. As I pulled off in the vehicle, I saw the eyes of a Mercedes-Benz G63 driver follow me jealously from across the street. While on the highway, I noticed at least one “phone out the window” move and got a thumbs up while waiting at a red light. Or, at least, I think it was a thumb. This convinced me to close the windows and enjoy the silent, serene cabin of the XM.

The unique design of the XM sets it far apart from anything else in BMW’s lineup or on the road. Stacked quad tailpipes, an illuminated and wildly unique front grille, and sort of hidden badging make it less instantly recognizable than any other BMW. But that doesn’t make it subtle. It stands out from the crowd. Designed for the extrovert, indeed.

BMW XM Interior and Quality

Inside, the BMW XM is a classed-up X7 – not much more, and certainly nothing less. If you’re cross-shopping other BMWs in the segment, you’ll see much of the same accouterment here. New iDrive with a curved display, a thick leather-wrapped steering wheel, and luxurious leather upholstery everywhere you look. The XM adds unique touches like a moonroof-less headliner with a completely bespoke design. Overall, the cabin feels rich, even if it isn’t entirely unique. I will say that the Full Merino Leather option gives some nice touches that you won’t find elsewhere in the BMW stable, like leather and Alcantara accents that run the entire height of the door panel.

My biggest knock against the interior of the XM is the lack of customizability. While I’m sure BMW Individual is happy to help you open your wallet and personalize it to your heart’s content, that shouldn’t be necessary on a $160,000 SUV. The only trim option is carbon fiber, another example of the BMW XM being between lifestyles.

BMW XM Technology, Amenities, and Driver Aids

As mentioned, the XM shares most of its hardware with other BMWs. The curved display is as good here as elsewhere in the lineup. It’s responsive, and the voice commands work as well as I expected. The climate controls, while fully touchscreen-activated, are easy to use. Adaptive cruise control works well, as do lane-departure warnings, blind spots, and everything else. From ventilated seats to heated and cooled cupholders, the car literally has every amenity I can imagine. But there is a strange philosophical downside to that.

You’re nearly $175,000 deep into the BMW XM with every option box checked. Yet, nothing really sets it apart from a $110,000 X7 or even $120,000 X5. That isn’t necessarily a problem if you’ve never driven those vehicles. But it’s a solid lead-in to my verdict on the XM.

Verdict: Should I Buy a BMW XM?

Time for full disclosure. I really wanted to hate the BMW XM when I hopped into the driver’s seat. Until now, this review has very specifically avoided discussing the well-publicized negatives of the BMW XM. Because, frankly, you don’t need to look far to find them. The interior isn’t blow-your-mind luxurious. The performance, while extraordinary, trails others in the class. There’s nothing particularly novel that separates this vehicle from, say, the X6 M – unless you need the 30 miles of electric range the 2023 BMW XM offers. Overall, it’s probably a bit overpriced and under-equipped. Also, it’s weird looking.

The vexing thing about the BMW XM is that, in a vacuum, it doesn’t actually do anything poorly. It’s fast, still feels premium, and definitely turns heads. Despite its obvious shortcomings, it’s fun to drive when you want it to be and very comfortable when you need it to be. Should you buy one? Sure, if you’re a well-to-do enthusiast that can overlook the extra consonant in the badge or if you’re looking for something that sets you far apart from the Mercedes G-Wagens, Lamborghinis, and Bentleys in your social circle.

The BMW XM is a unique driving experience. It will never win SUV of the year and may be a somewhat shameless marketing ploy. I suspect that had it been dubbed the X8 with a base MSRP of $130,000, it’d be hailed as a class leader. But this isn’t the X8 – it’s the XM. And from behind the wheel, where it matters, it’s still a competent vehicle – as long as you have your expectations – and stock portfolio – accurately aligned.