Brash styling, heavy weight, huge price tag and power specs that seem to exist to bluntly pound that weight into submission; the 2024 BMW XM seemed like a vehicle I’d despise on paper. And after my very first impression with the relatively stiff ride and large size, I began feeling grouchy. But the longer I drove it, the more I discovered some excellent aspects of it that turned my mood around. It quickly showed that it was more than just a powerful engine, with a remarkable chassis and some well-implemented hybrid features. I even found myself appreciating the surprising design.
Note, these impressions apply to just the standard BMW XM. It has a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 and an electric motor making a combined 644 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. Power goes to all four wheels through a snappy and smooth eight-speed automatic transmission.
There’s actually an even more serious XM Label Red model that brings output up to 738 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque thanks to a more powerful V8 and slightly more electric power. It drops the 0-60 mph time from 4.1 seconds to 3.7, and increases the available top speed from 168 mph to 175. That’s great for bragging rights, though we’re not sure the driving experience would be different enough to merit the extra $26,000 it demands.
With that, let’s get onto our driving impressions.
For all the adventurous paths taken by BMW in exterior design over the years, it has stubbornly refused to mess with its interior design. Which is why I’m so grateful that the XM (along with the iX and i7) goes a little gonzo. The leather colors available range from typical black to much more unique weathered brown and even a dark teal green, and large sections of the dash are covered in it. The roof, while lacking a glass panel, gets a wild, geometric liner that’s edge lit with LEDs. While adding a dash of color, the light casts shadows that add nifty contrast. And then the rear seat is designed so that it looks as though it wraps into the doors. It gives a lounge-like vibe that you won’t find in anything else in this segment.
Of course, one of the primary attractions of the XM is its sheer thrust. With 644 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque, the XM is unsurprisingly quick. Admittedly, the 4.1-second estimated run to 60 mph isn’t earth-shattering, but it feels more impressive than it is because of the power delivery. The 194-horsepower electric motor helps fill in the bottom end of the power band, providing instant response and smooth delivery until the twin-turbo V8 is fully spooled up. It means that you’re neither waiting for power at the bottom like you might with some gas powertrains, nor are you running out of top end as with electric vehicles. It simply has loads of power everywhere and all the time, with superb control.
Now this came as a real surprise. Yes, BMW’s M division can make astoundingly capable performance vehicles. But the XM is really heavy; 6,094 pounds. And I’ve driven a number of EVs that are a bit lighter, and still feel mighty heavy trying to run through corners. But somehow, the XM feels incredibly quick on its feet. It has enormous grip, aggressively quick and accurate steering, and a stiff but unflappable disposition. The steering even has a hint of feedback, which is more than you can say for a lot of modern Bimmers. Combined with the responsive powertrain, it’s an SUV that wants to be driven harder and harder.
Genuinely usable electric mode
Aha! You probably expected that subhed to say “amazing” again, didn’t you? Well, not this time, since it’s not quite appropriate for the XM’s EV mode. But with an estimated range of 31 miles, this plug-in hybrid really can be used in full electric mode on a regular basis. It’ll even stay in EV mode up to 85 mph, so you can stay gasoline-free on the highway, too.
The catch here is the same as with many PHEVs, and that’s the fact that driving in full-electric mode means you’re keeping yourself from enjoying everything the car has to offer. All you get are 194 ponies in electric mode, and that’s not much for 6,000 pounds of SUV, particularly heading up on-ramps. And it feels unbecoming of BMW’s flagship performance SUV. Granted, if you’re in bumper-to-bumper traffic on your commute, or mostly cruising around town, it doesn’t matter. For anything else, it feels like a bit of a penalty for trying to be kinder to the earth.
About that styling
As with many new BMWs, the design of the XM hasn’t been particularly well-received. And that will vary from person to person. I’m really warming up to it. I appreciate that its still-large kidney grilles are more horizontally oriented, avoiding the bucktooth look of some of its cousins. The huge blistered fenders remind me of classic hot hatches, and I like that it goes the chop-top route for the roofline, rather than the fastback design. It looks lower and wider, and it retains more cargo space. And details like the vertically stacked exhaust tips and dual BMW badges at the back are fun. If nothing else, it stands out like almost no other SUV in its segment, and that’s probably exactly what XM buyers are looking for.