It’s the automotive industry’s most ubiquitous oxymoron: the performance SUV. From Ferrari and Lamborghini to Bentley, Aston Martin, Audi, and of course BMW, the humble utility vehicle has been through the sports enhancement center to create an automobile that has all of the credentials of a supercar without the impracticality. And the latest in this divisive line-up of gas-guzzlers is the all-new BMW XM.
“M” is the most powerful letter in the automotive alphabet. It stands for “Motorsport,” and in its 50 years of producing cars, it has lived up to expectations. BMW’s skunkworks M division grew from a racing arm to a consumer-facing brand, kicking off its road-going legacy with the legendary BMW M1.
When this car came out in 1979, it gave BMW supercar provenance, as only 456 M1s were ever built. The scarcity, coupled with the car’s looks that are just as provocative today as they were 45 years ago, created an immediate BMW M fanbase – ones that went on to desire other legendary models like the BMW M3 E30, Z3 M Coupé “Clown Shoe,” or the incredible V10-engined M5 E60.
In recent times, the “M” badge has been applied to every BMW car from 1 Series to 8 Series, however, often in the form of it being M-tweaked. To be a fully-fledged M car, it has to be completely overhauled inside and out. Or in the case of the BMW XM, completely designed by BMW’s M team from the ground up.
It begs the question: if BMW M is renowned for its motorsports and sports car DNA… why did it build an SUV? You and I both have every right to scrutinize this £147,000 GBP/$159,000 USD, 2.7-tonne hybrid behemoth. But as Hypebeast found out in its latest Open Road test drive, the BMW XM is not a sports utility vehicle, it’s a sports car that you can use every day of the week, no matter what life throws at it.
Lofty statements aside, there’s a lot more to the XM that surprised, shifted, and seduced us as we got to know the marque’s flagship vehicle. From the way the engine delivers to the divisive exterior styling and the futuristic interior, here’s our take.
Engine and Handling
The BMW XM packs a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 that’s paired with a large electric motor to produce instant hybrid power. The result means that, from a standstill, electricity is sent through the wheels to give the SUV a head start, and then the V8’s oomph kicks in. The oomph in question is a total of 653 HP, 800 Nm of torque, and a 0-62 MPH time of 4.3 seconds.
Comparatively, the Lamborghini Urus achieves the same sprint in 3.6 seconds. The Ferrari Purosangue is even quicker, coming in at 3.3 seconds, the same as the Aston Martin DBX 707. Porsche’s bonkers Cayenne Turbo GT does it in 3.1 seconds. Are you seeing the pattern here?
For a car built by M from the ground-up, and packing a hybrid powertrain, its performance figures are on the slightly slower side of sports utility vehicle top trumps. But where it lacks in off-the-line performance, the BMW XM makes up for it on the go. As you come out of a bend and onto a straight, the combination of electric and petrol power catapults you – and with 2.7 tonnes of weight to shift, you certainly feel the shove.
With its heft in mind, M spent plenty of time underpinning the SUV with technology that handles itself. A limited-slip differential, various computers that stop the car from rolling about in the corners, and razor shape brakes work harmoniously in order to make the XM feel light and nimble, giving you the confidence to chuck it about. And when you do, the XM gives in to your every will.
Likewise, with the ability to change the feel and responsiveness of the steering, throttle, and braking, the XM is a can that adapts to its surroundings. For cruising along the motorway, longer automatic gear shifts prioritize comfort over sheer power, and on the contrary, this can all be tweaked in-car to benefit the driving experience. Safe to say, we kept everything in maximum attack mode for the majority of our time with the XM. 1 of 5
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When pictures of the XM were first released in September 2022, automotive journalists jumped on the BMW bandwagon and immediately mocked its beaver teeth at the front and Air Jordan 1 side profile. How wrong we all were. If Naomi Campbell approves, who are we to knock its muscular haunches and raging stance?
Over the course of a week, we grew to love the XM’s looks. The iconic kidney grille design is now surrounded by an illuminated “Iconic Glow” ring, while the split daytime running light/headlight cluster is totally unique to the XM.
Likewise, vents at the front reveal the front tires behind them, while a waistline in either brushed gold metal or black gloss acts as a way to further carve out the lean shapes. 23-inch rims, three-dimensional rear lights, minimal fuss at the rear, and two sets of vertically-stacked hexagonal exhaust tips nestling a diffuser between each side is, in the flesh, a welcomed recipe for a menacing performance vehicle.
But above all else is the attention to detail. The door handles feature a hexagonal motif dented and pinched into the structure; the BMW badge on the hood is tucked within a deep dip; and the BMW badge on the back is moved to either side of the rear window, replicating the rear end of the aforementioned BMW M1 – a very nice touch.
It feels special. It had people looking, which if you’d spent close to £200,000 GBP on a car (after options), you’d probably appreciate. What the XM achieves is something few cars manage, able to look and feel as if it has driven straight out of the future. By eschewing conventions and trends, BMW M has built a car that could go down in design history. 1 of 5
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And the interior is equally, if not more, jaw-dropping than the exterior.
It centers around a 14.9-inch curved touchscreen system that seamlessly blends into another 12.3-inch driver’s display. Combined, the dashboard rivals an IMAX theater, and the sound system is up to the same standards too.
Bowers & Wilkins supplies the auditory sensation that is the XM’s sound system, with Hans Zimmer-produced sounds welcoming you into the car and warning you of potential driving hazards. There are dozens of ways to customize the listening experience, and the speakers are in their prime when the 3D surround option is ticked. Here, it’s like being in a concert hall as the music (and demonstration programs) cocoon your ears in bass, treble, and clarity.
There’s luxury, then there’s BMW XM luxury. In the rear, the leather from the doors wrap around the seats, creating a lounge environment that gives you full unobstructed views of the three-dimensional light-clad roof paneling. Couple this with massage and heated seat functions, and there might be no better way to travel on four wheels at this price point.
The BMW XM is a bit like when a new food trend comes to market. Avocado toast, perhaps. When it first landed in the über cool cafés of London, only hipsters and trendsetters dared to try it. It was an acquired taste before we all got used to it.
It’s rare for a car to be totally “new.” But the XM is. Never before has M built its own car, and never has a car had such divisive looks. Similarly, the XM’s entire existence is something of its own, making sense of a V8 hybrid engine in a colossal, luxurious package that brings emissions down while making hybrids look and feel cool and special.
But above all else is the XM’s ability to keep you coming back to it. There’s always a new button to press, a new driving mode to test, a new song to listen to, and a new person who will ask you “what is that!” That is the BMW XM, the definition of more is more and making it utterly magical to experience.
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