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In a Class of One: The 2023 BMW XM

2023 BMW XM front 3/4 view

Anyone who thinks that automotive designers don't take big risks anymore hasn't seen a BMW XM.

All angles (okay, and snout), the XM doesn't look like anything else on the road. And in Cape York Green Metallic with 23-inch NightGold wheels and NightGold Metallic exterior trim, it sends conflicting signals about what it is (this is a performance vehicle?) and who it's for (wealthy soccer moms old enough to remember the J.C. Whitney catalog?).

Turns out the Cape York Green Metallic was a 2023-only color option. While NightGold trim and wheels remain on the options list at no extra cost, many may choose to go for the Black Sapphire Metallic with blacked-out trim, like the '23 XM I reviewed in October.

The XM is the only current M vehicle that is not based on an existing BMW model. In the entire history of M, there has only ever been one other stand-alone M car---the late 70s M1.

2023 BMW XM rear 3/4 view

In BMW's SUV lineup, there's an X3 M, an X5 M, but no X7 M. Instead, we have the XM.

Seven inches longer and one inch lower than an X5, but only three inches shorter (and one inch lower) than an X7, the XM doesn't really fit into an obvious gap in the product portfolio.

2023 BMW XM charging port

The XM is also the only M vehicle that's a plug-in hybrid. As with all PHEVs, there's a set amount of pure electric range---in this case, 31 miles.

2023 BMW XM hood up

2023 BMW XM engine

M aficionados might begin to worry at this point, but no need. The inclusion of an electric motor in the XM's powerplant isn't entirely in the interest of the environment. It makes 194 horsepower all by itself. The XM can be driven in pure electric mode up to 87 miles per hour.

Combined with the 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8's 483 horsepower, the XM's total output is 644 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque.

And the serious horsepower is just the beginning of the performance pieces underpinning the XM. There's an eight-speed sport automatic transmission, an M Sport differential, Adaptive M Suspension Pro, M Sport brakes with black calipers, M xDrive all-wheel-drive and selectable drive modes.

Take advantage of charging for that 31 electric miles every single time and the EPA says you'll average 46 MPGe---the electrified equivalent of the standard fuel economy.

But forget to charge and that number drops like a rock---a mere 14 MPG.

2023 BMW XM performance setting menu

Back in October, I complained about the XM's throttle response resisting smooth launches in traffic---and about a ride that was less than smooth.

Thank goodness for second chances. Having a second go-round with the XM, I found the setup menu that doesn't just control the M Sport and Sport Plus modes, but the default settings for the car. Clearly, the one in California last fall had been tweaked by the journalist before me so that comfort mode had been altered for Sport Plus drivetrain and chassis responses.

This car, from the good folks at BMW and at Prestige Auto in Atlanta, came to me with the Comfort menu set to Comfort. And the rest of the modes were easy to set up with progressive levels of response.

Georgia driving route
Northern Georgia rural driving route (courtesy Google Maps)

All of which got a healthy workout during a two-hour loop of four-lane highways, local streets and country backroads in Northern Georgia. In Comfort mode, the XM is smooth and responsive. Ask for Sport and requests to the engine room are answered with an immediate thrust and satisfying roar. Sport Plus just dials it all up to 11. It's addictive.

And it's not just the noise and the forward momentum. The XM, in Sport or Sport Plus, handles in a way we've spent decades believing an SUV simply can't. Yes, there are others on the market that have also put that notion to bed, but the XM is nothing short of stellar when you forget that it's an SUV and simply drive it like a BMW M vehicle.

2023 BMW XM tailgate open

2023 BMW XM cargo area

Because the XM's mission is to haul more...well, you know...than cargo, the space for business in the back is smaller than most SUVs and only slightly bigger than most car trunks---18.6 cubic feet. If you have to carry more, folding down the second-row seats buys you a lot more room---64.2 cubic feet.

2023 BMW XM rear seat

BMW chose to shower the space between the wheels on the rear seat passengers, who get a limo-like 40.3 inches of legroom---only a tenth of an inch less than the folks up front.

2023 BMW XM front seats

2023 BMW XM front seat detail

That color combination? It's called Deep Lagoon with Vintage Coffee. I'm no fashion expert, but those are two colors I don't personally think go together. BMW's counting on my being wrong and you spending $2,500 for it. At the same price, you can get Silverstone with Vintage Coffee, which swaps out the blue for white (and some concerns about how that'll look over time). $1,500 buys you the Sakhir Orange and Black interior that was in the XM I tested last fall.

There's also just plain black. It's free. As is the ambient light that is embedded in the plush headliner.

2023 BMW XM ambient light headliner

2023 BMW XM instrument panel

"Free" is a word which here means (Lemony Snicket, please don't sue) $159,995. That's the base price of the 2023 BMW XM, including destination and it hasn't changed for 2024.

Contrary to BMW's habit of a list of extra-cost options that drastically add to the tab, a complete active safety suite, the M Sport pieces (suspension, brakes), front and rear heated seats, carbon fiber trim, front massaging seats, heated and cooled cupholders are all standard at that price.

2023 BMW XM steering wheel and gauge cluster

2023 BMW XM center console

2023 BMW XM center stack

The only extra-cost options on our test vehicle were the aforementioned Deep Lagoon/Vintage Coffee leather interior ($2,500) a Bowers & Wilkins sound system ($3,400 and worth every penny---but I place huge value on great audio) and the M Driver's Package ($2,500). All of which puts the bottom line on the window sticker at $168,395.

2023 BMW XM front view

2023 BMW XM side view

2023 BMW XM rear view

It's a lot of money, but a lot of performance, luxury and features. As for the looks, well, that's a matter of taste. You can't see it when you're driving it. And when you're driving it, most people are only going to see the tail.


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