BMW XM review: Wild Hybrid

    BMW’s range-topping SUV takes a different approach to entice you. And it’s not just down to how it looks.

    Published on Mar 06, 2024 04:37:00 PM


    Make : BMW
    Model : XM
    We Like
    • Opulent interior
    • Performance
    We Don't Like
    • Expensive
    • Busy ride

    Heads turn. Eyes widen. Jaws drop. The sight of a low-slung supercar usually has that effect. Today, however, is unusual. The reactions to the vehicle I’m commandeering are the same, but my vantage point on the other side of the windscreen is well clear of the ground. I’m in the hulking BMW XM, an SUV with a Master's in shock and awe.

    Backstory first: The XM is BMW’s range-topping SUV and, as the name suggests, is the best of BMW’s X line of SUVs meeting the best of BMW’s M motorsports division. It’s a bespoke model conceived by M and not one built around an existing BMW model, like other M cars. At its very core though there’s plenty shared with other Bimmers, from the CLAR architecture to the engine. But I’ll get to all that in a bit. Because, looks.

    BMW XM exterior design

    Nothing, neither the split-eyed 7 Series nor the bunny-toothed iX quite prepares you for the visual assault that is the XM. It’s cliff-faced up front and taking centre stage on the 2-metre-wide canvas is a TV-sized interpretation of the classic BMW kidney grille. And no Sir, you won’t miss it at night either because it glows! There’s even more to take in. The headlights are split, the bonnet is all manners of sculpted and the bumper gets its own contrast panel.

    Logos are laser etched on either side of the rear windscreen.

    It’s all muscles and flares at the sides too, with the tight glasshouse and lower roofline also doing their bit to visually distance the XM from the X5 and like-sized X7. The XM stands proud on chunky rubber with 22-inch rims, and I’d imagine the optional 23 inchers would work even better. Bling your thing? There’s the option of a ‘Night Gold’ finish for the wheels, grille and window surrounds.

    Vintage look leather adds glamour to cabin.

    Sharply cut tail-lights that jut out are a new-age BMW style element you’d find on the XM too but what you won’t find on its tailgate is the BMW roundel. The logo is laser-etched on to the top of the windscreen on either side; an easter egg that links the XM to the M1 supercar of the 1980s, the first standalone car developed by M. Purposeful, vertically stacked exhausts set amidst a diffuser further the XM’s image of a bruiser. The XM is not classically beautiful but its presence and show value are just mega. The faces would tell you.

    BMW XM engine and gearbox

    The XM better have the go to match the show, and here’s where it gets interesting. The XM is a plug-in hybrid and hence a break from the traditional super SUV formula. The powertrain comprises BMW’s epic 4.4-litre twin-turbo petrol V8 (in 489hp and 650Nm state of tune) that works with a 197hp electric motor integrated onto the 8-speed automatic gearbox. Combined system output is 653hp and 800Nm, figures up there with the super SUV biggies. The other headline figure is for economy – 61.9kpl on the WLTP cycle! The number is made possible by an all-electric mode courtesy of a 25.7kWh lithium-ion battery pack under the floor that feeds the motor. Regen tops up the battery and there’s also the option to plug in to charge at up to 7.4kW.

    4.4-litre V8 is in mid-spec 489hp guise.

    Hybrid drive mode that has the engine and electric motor work in parallel is the default powertrain mode. Battery charge permitting, the XM comes to life silently and can be driven on electric power alone, subject to a light right foot that is. Because at the slightest hint of urgency, the engine roars to life and takes charge as the lead source of propulsion. The transition isn’t entirely seamless and on more than one occasion I found the engine feel too eager for the actual driving conditions. When car and driver are in sync, though, the XM delivers. The 4.4-litre V8 is charismatic as ever, feeling punchy, rev happy and big on might. The electric motor fills in the blanks but it’s the engine that’s the star of the show. It sounds delightfully angry too and there’s even the option to open an exhaust flap to up the decibels.

    You can completely geek out with your XM’s set up.

    E-Control drive mode that prioritises maintaining a high state of charge relinquishes most of the heavy lifting to the engine, and it’d be my mode of choice on a fun day out. You can go all out in the XM knowing that there’s the safety net of up to 85km of all-electric range should you run the fuel tank dry. Something the V8 will tempt you to do.

    M1 and M2 are shortcuts to your favourite settings.

    The good thing is that the XM doesn’t feel pedestrian in its all-electric drive mode. The build of speed is brisk and an electric top speed of 150kph means you can cruise on the highway too in near silence. The powertrain is quiet (the speakers do pipe out a unique EV sound), but the chunky Yokohamas kick up quite a noise.

    BMW XM performance, ride and handling

    In our performance tests, the XM charged from 0-100kph in 4.4 seconds. It’s undoubtedly quick, but here’s the kicker. The number isn’t record-setting any more. In fact, the ‘lesser’ X5 M is quicker (3.8 sec to 100kph) and that’s where the issue lies. Did the XM really need the added weight and complexity of a hybrid powertrain when the V8 engine alone in a higher state of tune (it goes up to 635hp) theoretically could have delivered more performance? The fanboy in me sees the XM as an M SUV in which all-out performance should have been the guiding light.

    BMW XM front

    On a winding road, the XM’s near 50:50 front-back weight distribution, active anti-roll bars, rear wheel steer and active rear differential do work their magic. The XM steers beautifully, it corners flat, feels poised and grips and grips thanks to the quick acting all-wheel drive system. But the XM is ultimately too big and too heavy to shrink around you and suck you into the experience like an X5 M or a Cayenne would. Of the other things, the XM’s low profile tyres tend to follow the grooves on the road, so you have to keep a firm hand on the steering at all times. A busy ride on the short travel steel springs also means you aren’t cocooned from the outside world as well as the sumptuous interior would have you believe.

    BMW XM interior

    Trimmed in quilted materials, vintage look leather and Alcantara with generous splashes of metal and carbon fibre, the XM’s interior looks and feels special. You’ll love how the throne-like front sport seats hold you and how nice the steering (it’s not unduly thick like those on lesser M Sport trim cars) feels to hold. The curved display that comprises 12.3-inch digital dials and a 14.9-inch touchscreen is top-tier BMW fare and fits in well amidst the high-end environment. You’d like how vibrant the dials are, but more themes would have been nice. Similarly, the touchscreen is slick and the top layer with its big widgets is easy to use. Trouble is, the sub-menus are confusing, and the multiple displays for the climate control settings, for instance, are almost intimidating at first glance. Keen drivers won’t have an issue with the vehicle settings’ menu that lets you truly geek out with options to adjust everything from powertrain and chassis to energy recovery and brake settings. The M1 and M2 buttons on the steering give you direct access to your favourites.

    It’ll run silently in EV mode, but is fast and loud if you provoke it.

    A driver’s SUV the XM may be, but the rear section of its cabin is inviting in its own right. There’s massive legroom, for one, and the beautifully upholstered seats ace on comfort too. You will have to contend with restricted visibility out; the rear windows are relatively small and there’s no sunroof. You read that right! Rather, the headliner gets mad angles and comes lined by LEDs as part of the ambient lighting. The combined effect of the wraparound seats, zany roof and interior lighting is a lounge-like space.

    It isn’t meant for the chauffeur-driven but rear seat is very comfy.

    BMW XM features

    Features wise, the XM packs in plenty. Ventilated, heated and massaging front seats; soft-close doors, a mega 1,475W Bowers & Wilkins sound system, wireless phone connectivity and auto parking are standard fit. The safety suite comprises 6 airbags, all manners of electronic aids as well as ADAS functions like lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control and emergency braking. What’s a big miss is a spare tyre. There’s no storage under the boot floor and no provision for a spare at all.

    No sunroof here. Headliner gets mad angles and is lined by LEDs.

    BMW XM price and verdict

    You could think of the XM as a brute with a green side. That’s all well and good, but does it fulfill what you’d want of a super SUV? On visual drama, yes. On driving pleasure? Hmm. Thing is, good as the XM is, it’s not the benchmark on performance or handling. Sure, the plug-in hybrid arrangement enables silent running and Instagram reel-friendly fuel economy numbers, but I can’t help but imagine how much purer a lighter, all-petrol XM would have been. As a luxury SUV too, it’s got the opulent interior but not the ride comfort.

    The BMW XM eventually leaves you with the impression of being an SUV that’s trying to be too many things. Long story short, there are sportier and more lavish SUVs to spend your Rs 2.6 crore (ex-showroom, India) on.

    Also see:

    Mercedes-Benz GLA vs BMW X1 comparison: Diesel duel

    BMW i16 is the i8 successor that was never made

    BMW M4 facelift revealed

    Tech Specs

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