2023 BMW XM Review: To the X-TreMe

Derryn Wong
  1. Introduction / Styling & Appearance
  2. Driving Experience
  3. Interior and Features / Space and Practicality
  4. Competition and Conclusion

Driving Experience

Like most expensive high-performance SUVs, the XM relies on a bag of technological tricks to bludgeon physics into submission:  adaptive air suspension, active roll control, and – a M first – all-wheel steering. Interestingly, the XM doesn’t rely on the electric motor for all-wheel drive, but shunts all of its combined power through a conventional all-wheel drive system and a rear M Sport differential.

The PHEV bit adds minimal complexity, thankfully : You select one of three modes: Hybrid (basically auto mode), Electric (self-explanatory) and eControl (maintain the battery charge). On top of that you have three drive modes – Road, Track, and Race – and further on, two M modes (M1 and M2) engaged by the steering wheel buttons.

We left it in Hybrid on our 200km test route, and the XM was excellent at navigating suburban Phoenix’s sprawl. The car went quiet often, with the V8 waking occasionally. As you fly along, elevated, you can hear the Zimmer-made electric drive sound, the purr of the V8, or a combination of both.

It’s slightly weird, but still entertaining, and it underlines the stark choices ahead for petrol power : we’d all better get used to it since PHEVs are the only way magnificent ICE engines are going to survive.

And to speak of magnificent, BMW’s updated its 4.4-litre V8 (which pulls duty in the X5 M and X6 M) for the XM, but at its heart it remains a thoroughly stirring piece of engineering. Straight-lining the XM in full blast is a lovely experience, all the more so a contrast to the efficient, e-cruising.

The XM delivers sound and fury, but it does not feel immensely fast, which is also due to its refinement, and its own nature. As you can imagine, it absolutely demolishes stretches on the freeway and wider A-roads. Its long, long legs and planted nature give confidence for very high speed runs.

The massive 22-inch wheels don’t, impressively, detract from confidence, but do deliver noticeable tyre roar and thumping, unescapable in any big-wheeled machine. This is one area where the XM is improved over M-ified X cars that came before, like the X3 M, X5 M, whose flexibility was always hampered by excessively crash ride quality, which made them less flexible as a result.

The XM is more adroit at spanning a spectrum of use. But as the road becomes tighter, physics does reannounce itself. Its battery may be floor-mounted, but the total weight of the car is a massive 2.7+ tonnes, and that certainly can be felt when the tarmac becomes twisty ribbons. To its credit, the XM never felt under-braked, nor was its weight dangerously out of control, like some EVs feel. It may be heavier than some large EVs, but it’s just as, if not more, agile.

We confess that we flogged the V8 every chance we got and did not make any attempt at seriously testing the electric-only range of the car. That being said, we have tested the BMW 230e, a plug-in which has the same fifth-gen e-drive tech in PHEV format as the XM. So we would be surprised if the XM is unable to replicate, or at least get close to, its quoted 85km e-range in real life.

You can say that PHEV tech in this end of the industry is used as virtue-signalling and performance -adding, like with Ferrari’s PHEVs, but with the XM, you have the chance of owning a properly-high performance car that is also capable of entirely zero-emissions commutes in Singapore. At the very least, it removes one sore point, that of neighbour-riling noise pollution.

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5 door 5 seat bmw BMW M electric EV extra large high performance large luxury PHEV SUV XM

About the Author

Derryn Wong

CarBuyer's former chief editor was previously the editor for Top Gear Singapore and a presenter for CNA's Cruise Control motoring segment.

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