- It’s BMW’s new hybrid flagship
- A power-hungry SUV with brash styling
- And a PHEV with excessive engineering
BMW-style polarisation 2.0 comes in the shape of this 750bhp badass SUV in shitstorm livery which takes no prisoners. Have they gone nuts in Munich – or is that hewn from solid Marvel meets Manga PHEV behemoth firmly on the pulse of time after all?
The response to the XM show car, revealed late in 2021, could not have been more scathing. The social media scorned and derided the first new model released under the second regime of the M chief Frank van Meel. Malicious tongues discredited it as a Skoda Kodiaq avatar deformed by a Russian Kamaz truck grille, notorious pessimists feared the demolition of the BMW brand by a single product allegedly capable of delivering the blow of death to an already tousled image, professional design analysts diagnosed a brutal monster predestined to divide society. Strong stuff – perhaps we should reserve final judgement until the real thing without camouflage panels gets introduced later in the year.
Not the first time a BMW’s been controversially designed, though…
No. The current 4-series and iX immediately spring to mind. Even the latest 7-series at least stirs the debate further; managing to fuse the cathedral kidney, the optional Black Pack and the M sport outfit to a surprisingly coherent piece of street furniture. It´s not pretty but expressive.
With the XM, subjectively at least, the front end is 90 per cent grille and ten percent body colour. Surrounding the XXXL double air intake are origami surfaces made of sheet metal and composites which throw hard shadows complemented by continuously changing shine effects.
The nixing of conventional styling themes continues at the rear where the stacked tailpipes are reminiscent of the Ferrari California. Perhaps even more extreme are the split, garland-shaped taillights which grow from bulges in the wings before they almost meet on both sides of the BMW roundel. Buyers can choose between two styling themes, relatively discreet and positively flamboyant. The latter option includes jewel alloys, two-tone paint and a contrasting ribbon in gold or copper which runs from the bottom of the A-post to the top of the wide C-pillars. Those who wear D&G, Off White or Gucci will love it, the rest can only hope that a monochrome outfit makes them less visible.
According to the M marketing squad, main rivals are similarly imposing fast lane regulars like the Mercedes GLS63 AMG and the G63 AMG, Lamborghini Urus, LWB Bentley Bentayga and the new Range Rover SVO.
I need some performance specs please
The one we’ve tested is the XM 60, complete with 641bhp and 590lb ft powertrain. It’s a PHEV, with a ‘hybrid-specific’ all-wheel drive system and a claimed e-range of 50 miles. And, if you may remember, that’s less than the power output teased by the original XM concept. But the power hungry need not worry – a top-of-the-line 739bhp/737lb ft version is coming. All output numbers factor in a 201bhp e-power module. All of that complication means the XM clocks in at just under 2.8 tons.
Measuring 5110mm in length, 2200mm in width and 1730mm in height, the boxy newcomer shares the wheelbase and the footprint with the X7. But, when asked why the first bespoke M product since the M1 is not a super sporty coupé or convertible, the chief project engineer Sven Ritter answered like a shot: ‘Because SUVs are where the market is. Not only in Europe, but globally. The XM fuses luxury and performance on the highest level. It is not an X6 on steroids, an evolution of the X5M or a rebodied X7. We designed and engineered this vehicle from scratch because it must compete against the icons in its segment. That´s why excelling on a race track is not part of its DNA. Instead, this is the ultimate statement of style and substance. As state-of-the-art PHEV, it is a transitional stop-gap concept which will go fully electric as soon as suitable batteries are available.’
Since the homologation is not yet complete, the 3.9sec acceleration time from 0-62mph and the top speed of 175mph with Driver´s Pack are still provisional. As expected, one can tweak the throttle feedback, shift speed, steering action, damper set-up and even the calibration of the brakes. Selecting Sport shortens the pedal travel and quickens the response. Unlike the X5/X6M, the XM does without air suspension and carbon ceramic brakes. Sven Ritter explains why: ‘Especially with more than two people and luggage on board, the classic adjustable shock absorbers offer a comfort advantage over air springs. The 20in steel brakes decelerate with aplomb, and they are neither susceptible to rain and temperature nor do they squeal or drone.’
So how does all of this engineering work on the road, then?
The new arrival is a very quick yet totally relaxed high-end crossover. Its supple ride is more Hovercraft than speedboat, grip and traction are seemingly inexhaustible, it is much more agile than bulk and weight suggest, and the brakes perform with the determination of an executioner. The rear-wheel steering adds X1-like manoeuvrability through tight corners and in town and the directional stability at speed is impressive.
Since the front wheels act like mighty precision plotters even when the radius tightens and the surface deteriorates, confidence is building up corner by corner, apex by apex. But in contrast to certain other, notably looser BMW M models, the XM knows its etiquette and how to present it. In E-mode, it almost out-wafts the noble Cullinan, even in Sport Plus it refrains from making purile noises and harsh gestures, and its refined manners as well as that power-and-torque grandezza shine through clearly in every drive mode. There is no doubt about it: even this opulent, part-time aggro, full-time luxury tarmac peeler fits the description of the ultimate driving machine.
BMW XM: first impressions
After an hour of hard charging on a mixed bag of roads, the first impressions cement a smile on the driver´s face. What makes the XM special is the mix of massive turn-in grip, magnetic roadholding and failsafe handling which is ready to play but only when told so. If one had to create a motto for this car, ‘No Understeer’ would be the slogan of choice.