BMW XM review

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The BMW XM is a very special prospect. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at what's on offer.

Ten Second Review

There's never been a BMW quite like the XM, an extreme SUV mix of performance, luxury and in-your-face street presence. And because its 4.4-litre petrol V8 is also a Plug-in Hybrid, there's even an element of eco-efficiency built into. An M car for a new era? That's about the size of it.

Background

Quite a few people's wish list for the ultimate car might well sound read something like this; the power and handling of an uber-fast high performance motorsport-developed BMW M sports car; space for the family with limo-like luxury in the back; a Plug-in Hybrid powertrain so you can do all your commuting and more without troubling fossil fuel; and stand-out looks that will see the neighbours doing a double take. It sounds like an impossible combination. It isn't. Welcome to the BMW XM.

It's the BMW M division's very first electrified car and only its second ever completely bespoke product (the first was the M1 supercar back in 1978). And it's aimed right into the heart of the exclusive market for extreme, frantically fast big SUVs with lottery-level price tags. Size-wise, think BMW X7, though in this case with just two seating rows. We might have expected the Munich maker to address this segment with an M version of the X7, but that wouldn't have been very exclusive. This XM very definitely is. Think of it as an X8 if you like; it runs down the same US Spartenburg production line as the brand's other large X models, but this one is far more potent and - potentially - far more desirable.

Driving Experience

There's not much that's familiar about the XM, but a likely customer with an existing stable of very fast BMWs may already have one with this car's 4.4-litre V8 twin turbo powerplant beneath the bonnet. The version of that engine used here though, is rather different, paired with a 194hp electric motor to deliver 644hp in standard form, or 748hp in top 'Label Red' guise, the latter the most powerful non-electric SUV on the market. Even the standard version is shatteringly fast, making 62mph in only 4.3s en route to 155mph. It's 3.8s with the 'Label Red' version. And when you don't need to show the world how fast your XM can go, there's an 'EV' mode that can take you up to 55 miles without troubling the engine, courtesy of a 25.7kWh battery mounted beneath the floor.

It's 4WD of course, power split between both axles by an electronic multiplate clutch, which in the engine-only 'Sport' and 'Sport Plus' modes gives a classic BMW rear-driven bias. The rear axle differential splits torque between left and right rear wheels to tighten corner turn-in; and there are clever 48V-powered anti-roll bars to dial out cornering body roll. We mentioned drive modes; the other two are 'Hybrid' and 'Comfort', where the engine and electric motor are used in tandem, with the electric motor prioritised in 'Comfort'. There's adaptive damping of course, which varies through the available modes and is needed given that wheel sizes can be as large as 23-inches.

Design and Build

The XM makes what BMW Design Chief Domagoj Dukec describes as 'an extravagant statement' - which presumably is what a lot of customers in the exclusive segment for extreme high performance large SUVs are looking for. It's certainly unlike any BMW we've ever seen before, ushering in a distinctive and angular new look for the company's M sub-brand. Those razor sharp creases disguise the size a bit - the XM has the same pavement footprint as the huge X7, but it's in a different league in terms of wow factor.

Of course you may not want people to stare at you in your £150,000 SUV, in which case you'll probably find the enormous double kidney grille, the beady twin headlamps and the stacked hexagonal twin rear exhaust tips somewhat brash. The wheels - of course - are enormous, 21 inchers as standard, with seismic 23-inch rims optional. And there are some heritage touches, like the pair of BMW badges at the top corners of the rear window, a nod to the original BMW M1 supercar.

Inside, it's very high end and slightly more familiar, the twin curved 14.5-inch screens borrowed from the iX. Vintage brown leather trimming, teal diamond velvet upholstery plus copper and carbon fibre inserts remind you how much you spent. Though there is only one rear seating row, it's opulently spacious, the back seat area described by the brand as the 'M Lounge'. There's a huge boot too, 527-litres in size with the rear seats up, or 1,820-litres with them folded.

Market and Model

Pricing for the standard 653hp standard XM model is pitched at around £148,000. For the 748hp 'Label Red' model, you're looking at around £171,000. Either way, at least you get plenty of kit for that, to go with the prevailing ethos for the XM, which BMW describes as 'extroverted luxury'. You notice that most in the so-called 'M Lounge', the back seat, where there are integrated phone holders and you get a dedicated rear infotainment screen. Up-front, the wrap-around infotainment screen has M-specific display modes, there are M-specific pedals with M buttons on the steering wheel and behind that wheel lie carbonfibre shift paddles. Many owners will want to upgrade the 21-inch wheels to the huge 23-inch rims that BMW offers for those wanting to make more of a statement.

The standard Harman Kardon Surround Sound System consists of 16 speakers delivering 415-watts. Or there's an optional Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System with 20 speakers and a 1,500-watt amplifier to further elevate the listening experience. A digital seven-channel amplifier and four additional sound sources in the roof area generate a multi-layered 3D sound experience for all occupants. The driver and front passenger in the XM can enjoy video-on-demand services on the control display, allowing them to pass the time while waiting for the vehicle to recharge or be refuelled. Starting with YouTube, the range of available services is set to expand as the BMW Group adds further third-party apps.

Cost of Ownership

News that the V8 powertrain used here is basically the same one that features in BMW's M Hybrid race car in the U.S-based IMSA Sportscar Championship and the World Endurance Championship might not lead you to expect much in terms of economy. And of course, if you never plug this car in and thrash it about everywhere, it'll be just as much a gas guzzler as any of its more conventional rivals. But the XM trump card is a Plug-in Hybrid system that, when its 25.7kWh battery is fully charged, will give the car up to 55 miles of all-electric driving range (up to 52 miles for the 'Label Red' version), though obviously, you're not going to get any near that if you regularly approach the quoted pure electric top speed of 87mph. That EV range delivers the pie-in-the-sky efficiency figures quoted for the standard model - 188.3mpg on the combined cycle and up to 33g/km of CO2, the latter figure perfect for reducing your tax exposure. It's 176.6mpg and 35g/km for the 'Label Red' model.

The Combined Charging Unit of the M Hybrid system enables AC charging at up to 7.4kW, replenishing the battery from 0 to 100% in 4.25 hours. The Combined Charging Unit also acts as a voltage transformer to supply the 12V electrical system. Predictive heat management reduces charging times by warming or cooling the battery, using a variety of data to calculate the temperature at which the high-voltage battery can be charged at maximum power for the longest possible time.

The charging socket on the XM has a sensor that measures the temperature at the plug contacts to detect possible over-heating at an early stage, and includes a handy light so that customers can easily hook up their car in the dark. The storage bag for the charging cable is made exclusively for the BMW XM and secured in the boot area using a crash-protective carabiner-belt combination.

Summary

Could a BMW really appeal to someone about to sign for a Lamborghini Urus or an Aston Martin DBX? This one might. It has all the visual and dynamic drama of those cars, yet at the same time, the kind of real world zeitgeist you'd get in a comparably priced Plug-in Hybrid Range Rover P510e. It's taken BMW a long time to find the right car for this exalted lottery-level segment, but we think this is very definitely it.

True, the styling's somewhat extrovert for European tastes, but the XM isn't really aimed at our continent. Instead, it will sell in useful numbers in the brand's US, Asian and Middle Eastern markets to customers who simply want the fastest, the most outlandish and the most unique BMW ever made. There's nothing quite like an XM. And if you like it, you'll really, really want one.

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