The 2023 BMW XM Is So Good to Drive, You Won't Care How it Looks

The 2023 BMW XM Is So Good to Drive, You Won't Care How it Looks

My goodness, people sure do have opinions about the BMW XM – especially the way it looks. Yes, it’s big. Yes, the proportions are kinda awkward. And yes, you can get it all bedazzled with gold trim. But if you decide to write off the XM solely based on its polarizing appearance, you’re making a big mistake. This SUV is one of BMW’s best new products in years.

Full disclosure: BMW flew me to Scottsdale, AZ, to drive the new XM. The company also put me up in a nice hotel and fed me, and paid for the Cactus Cooler I took from the minibar.

I Think The XM Looks Rad

Photo: BMW

BMW’s been getting a lot of crap for its recent designs, but not all of that hate is deserved. No, there’s no excuse for the hideous split headlights and oversized grille on the new 7 Series, but they really only stand out because the rest of that car is so elegant and handsomely styled. On the other hand, the electric iX SUV is super cool because it’s wild from every single angle. Lean into the craziness, you guys.

The XM falls into that latter category; its wackiness is cohesive. The XM is roughly the same size as the three-row X7 but uses a more streamlined take on the conventional two-box SUV shape. All of its features are exaggerated, right down to the standard 23-inch wheels which can – and should – be ordered in no-charge gold finish. The stacked exhaust tips look awesome and, of course, the grille lights up. Oh, and the little notches at the top of the hatchback are a throwback nod to the M1 supercar, with BMW roundels etched into the hatch glass. It’s good. Very good.

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The Interior Is Great, Too

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Photo: BMW

BMW exercised a little more restraint inside the XM, with a vibe that’s more about premium elegance than outright ostentatiousness. Vibrant colors can really liven up the cabin, especially BMW’s “deep lagoon” (teal) and “vintage coffee” (brown) get-up, which is available for a $2,500 upcharge. More milquetoast white/brown and red/black schemes are available, and the truly boring among you can stick with a fully black interior if you must. No matter which way you go, carbon fiber and aluminum trim can be found on the doors, center console and around the multimedia screen. However, you can’t get any gold interior details to match the exterior trim, and BMW’s glass controls aren’t offered here, both of which are big-time bummers.

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iDrive 8 infotainment is standard, housed on BMW’s curved display that spans two-thirds of the dashboard. It’s the same tech you get in other new BMWs, with a menu screen made up of a billion little icons that are hard to pres while driving, but at least the responses to inputs is immediate and the graphics are bright and crisp.

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Photo: BMW

While the X7 has seating for up to seven passengers, the XM is an exclusively two-row affair — and a nice one at that. BMW fits the XM with what it calls the “M Lounge,” where the upholstery and cushioning from the rear seats wraps up onto the doors, so you can sit angled toward your fellow passengers rather than straight forward. The high rear beltline gives you a sort of enclosed feeling, and makes the XM’s back seats feel a little more private. Rolls-Royce does this sort of setup with the Phantom sedan, and it’s neat to see this kind of interior design being used in an SUV.

Given its size, the XM offers decent luggage space, with 18.6 cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seats, or 64.3 cubic feet with the back bench folded. The low and heavily raked roofline means you might have trouble fitting tall items, and make sure you leave space for the fancy charging cord tote that comes standard with every XM. This bag is even lined and waterproof, so you can use it for clothes or other personal items if you don’t mind leaving the Level 2 cable behind.

Speaking of Charging…

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Photo: BMW

The XM is a plug-in hybrid, with a 29.5-kWh lithium-ion battery mounted under the cargo floor. You can’t use a DC fast-charger for a battery this small, so you’re limited to Level 2 charging at a maximum rate of 7.4 kW. That means it’ll take a little over 3 hours to totally replenish the battery from a standard wall charger, but energy recuperation while driving can send supplemental electricity back into the battery to juice it up while on the go.

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You can drive the XM in fully electric mode at speeds up to 87 mph, and if you can stay under that vMax, BMW estimates an all-electric range of about 30 miles. The single electric motor makes 194 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque, which is okay for the kind of city driving where pure electric operation makes the most sense. Just remember that this is a 6,062-pound hybrid SUV, not a fully electric vehicle, so if you’re looking for maximum performance, EV mode isn’t it.

That’s Where the V8 Comes In

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Photo: BMW

On its own, the XM’s 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 produces 483 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque, but through the magic of nonsensical hybrid math, total system output is 644 hp and 590 lb-ft. The electric torque hits instantly, filling in any gaps created by the V8’s turbo lag, allowing the XM to hit 60 mph in an astounding 4.1 seconds.

If for some reason that isn’t enough, BMW will soon offer the XM Label Red, which boosts output to 735 hp and 735 lb-ft of torque. Look for that one to hit the road this summer.

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Photo: BMW

Power is managed via an eight-speed automatic transmission, and you can play around with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles if that’s your jam. Honestly, I feel better just leaving the gearbox to its own devices; the eight-speed auto is smooth and quick in operation, with the sort of kick-in-the-seat slam-shift you feel in BMW’s other M cars. Nail the throttle and the XM will drop a few gears and rev the V8 to its redline. You will never, ever want for more power.

Rear-biased all-wheel drive is standard, with a sport rear differential that can vector torque across the rear axle for better cornering grip. There’s a 4WD Sport mode, too, which gives the xDrive AWD system a stronger rear bias, but there’s no dedicated two-wheel-drive setting like you’ll find in an M5 or M8. Fear not, though: BMW will let you fiddle with engine response, adaptive dampers, brake force and steering weight, and you can set two individual modes through the red M1 and M2 toggles on the steering wheel.

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Holy Smokes, This Thing Rips

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Photo: BMW

I can’t stress it enough: The XM absolutely slaps. There’s a level of enthusiasm in this thing that you won’t find in other BMW SUVs, even the rowdy X5 M Competition or tuner-special Alpina XB7. Standard 48-volt anti-roll tech keeps the body flat while cornering, and huge 20-inch steel front brakes haul it all down to a stop with immediacy and composure. Fat 275/35 front and 315/30 rear Pirelli P Zero summer tires offer a world of grip, and the XM genuinely corners like a car half its size, with crisp turn-in and a rear end that’s eager to rotate.

I’ve driven plenty of super-fast look-at-me SUVs — the Bentley Bentayga Speed, Lamborghini Urus, Mercedes-AMG G63, etc. — and none of them can match the XM’s on-road demeanor. Driving this SUV hard on winding mountain roads is exciting and rewarding, yet this SUV isn’t so one-track-minded that it’s harsh and horrible in the city or on the freeway.

Let me say it another way: On the same day I drove this SUV, BMW also let me test the new M2 coupe (stay tuned for that review in a couple weeks). I legit had more fun in the XM. I know these are two different vehicles with two different missions, but still, it speaks volumes that, if given the choice to make a mountain run in one of them, I’d totally take the XM.

2023 BMW XM: So Freaking Good

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Photo: BMW

Including a $995 destination charge, the BMW XM costs $159,995, though because this thing pretty much comes loaded, a fully optioned one isn’t much more, at $167,400. That makes it BMW’s most expensive SUV by a country mile, but it’s way cheaper than the exotic sport utes I mentioned earlier, with better tech and a nicer interior to boot. The XM will be built at BMW’s plant in South Carolina, and the US is expected to be its biggest market, though even then, it’ll be a niche product.

Say what you will about its design, or the fact that BMW’s newest M car is a 6,000-pound hybrid SUV. I promise, the XM doesn’t disappoint. If you actually reserve judgment until you hop in and drive one, there’s a whole mess of greatness to enjoy.