2023 BMW XM review by Ben Lewis

And now for something completely different. If youʻre a fan of Monty Pythonʻs Flying Circus – the crazy Brit comedy sketch series, youʻre certainly know that line – often delivered by a Python-ish TV Newscaster presenting a news story.

OK, maybe this a bit of an old and odd reflection, but itʻs what comes to mind when people ask us about the BMW XM. Because while weʻre pretty sure itʻs a BMW, thereʻs really nothing like it. And we sort of think that was the idea. So what is this super-power plug-in hybrid SUV? Letʻs find out.

Itʻs a Statement

If you like making heads turn, this is your vehicle. About the size of the 3-row X7 SUV, the XM is a large vehicle, and it gives it real presence.


Up front, you of course will have the large BMW kidney grilles, but surprise! They are not as huge as weʻve seen on other models, like the 4-series. And an added cool touch, the outline of the grille features lighting that makes a positive statement immediately – you know this is a BMW.

Framing the grille are driving lights that come across as slits of light and are particularly menacing. The adaptive LED headlights are tucked in below, giving them a furrowed brow of light peering out at you. Below the grille is a blacked-out lower fascia containing additional large air intakes – all the better to feed the hungy engine beneath the hood.

The profile takes on the massive and powerful vibe with a small greenhouse that features an aggressive kicked-up line that leads to the signature BMW Hoffmeister Kink – actually a sharply-raked D-pillar, which is as evocative as it sounds. Following that line from the front fender to the end of the window is a black accent band that adds another visual layer – and maybe just a little 70ʻs American muscle car vibe!

Gloss black fender trim gives some added visual muscle while a cut-in shape in the lower doors keeps things nice and tight. The real star of the side view are the massive 5-spoke, 22-inch M aerodynamic wheels with inserts that reduce weight and drag. If for some reason thatʻs not enough, 23-inch alloys are also available.  

The rear is unique as the front, with a massive full-width rear window that sits above slender horizontal rear lights that are only visible when activiated. They also do a cool staggered pattern light show when the turn signal is on.

Another fascinating motif, there is no BMW badge on the back, only an XM badge. If you look into the upper corners of the rear window, you will see the familiar BMW roundel, but unless youʻre in the know, you wonʻt know.

What you will know, this is a powerhouse. Just look at the stacked dual pipes on either side. The pipes themselves have a unique hexagonal design – they almost look like you could remove them with a giant Allen wrench!

Finishing off our testerʻs jaw dropping looks was the deep rich Marina Bay Blue metallic paint. OK, we have to admit it looks like a doppelganger for the Apex Blue Paint that was on our Acura MDX Type S, but no problems – it was gorgeous there as well! If thatʻs a problem, you can choose from 6 other factory colors, or better yet, 50 unique paint finishes from BMWʻs Individual program.

Itʻs an Occasion

Inside is a familiar new BMW cockpit – taken to new heights.

The first thing that catches the eye is the beautiful light Silvertone leather on the seats and the lower trim panels – bright and fresh. Also fresh is the Vintage Coffee Merino leather thatʻs on the instrument panel and door trim. Using a special finishing process that discreetly highlights creases, scars, and worn areas as characterful design elements of the material. Very cool.

Pop into the multi-function driverʻs seat (with massage function!) and your eye is immediately drawn to the sweeping BMW Curved Display, that includes a 12.3-inch and 14.9 inch wide screens under a single pane. Itʻs breathtaking, and a great showcase for BMWʻs iDrive 8 infotainment system, which shows up beautifully, and features swipable “tiles” that give you quick access all the info you need. And if you donʻt like swiping, thereʻs also a circular control knob in the center console.

Positives for the system include an actual volume knob (Yay!) and a slight negative is you have to go in the screen system to do basic things like access climate control functions.

While we love being in the driverʻs seat, the rear seating tempts you with what BMW calls the M Lounge, with two outboard seat and an adult-sized seat in the center. Since this is the size of a 3-row SUV, with no rear seat, the XM is expansive, with limo-like luxury, down to the removable quilted leather pillows!

Our tester didnʻt have a moonroof, but we didnʻt feel left out, thanks to the unique three-dimensional headliner in the roof. Made of Alcantara, it not only looks 3D, it actually is, a treat to run your hands across. Adding to the special experience, 100 LEDʻs are integrated into the headlinerʻs “picture frame” border, and it puts on quite a show, with special lighting effects depending on driving mode and situation. Weʻve never seen anything like it!

While we think most XM buyers arenʻt going to Home Depot or the big-box entertainment store, there is plenty of luggage space with the rear seats up, and the rear seats fold down to give expansive space – just donʻt mess up that beautiful leather!

Itʻs a Rocket

That special experience continues with the drive.

Like everything else on the XM, the powertrain is supersized. The plug-in hybrid starts with a 4.4-liter, twin-turbo V8 that pumps out an impressive 483 horsepower. And then adds a 194-horsepower electric motor. All combined, you get a jaw-dropping 644 horsepower and 590 pound feet of torque. If youʻre feeling eco-friendly, you can use the plug-in hybrid system to get up to 31 miles of EV only performance on a full charge. And with 644 hp on tap, we say, youʻd have a lot more self control than we have!

Letʻs face it – the XM goads you on. Pressing the start/stop button initiates an acoustic flourish – including a deep, body rumbling bass note – that signals the BMW XM is ready to drive. During the journey, the M-specific electric drive sound provides authentic feedback to every movement of the accelerator pedal.

To keep the good times coming, the power delivery of the electric motor retains its aural accompaniment when the combustion engine is running. If the Sport or Sport Plus mode is engaged while in HYBRID driving mode, a distinctive boost sound gives the driver an acoustic experience of the additional performance delivered by the electric motor.

And itʻs a big difference – especially between the mostly silent EV powertrain, and when that big honking V8 comes on board, which is loud, proud and powerful. 0-60 mph comes up in under 4 seconds, which is phenomenal for a 6,000 lb. SUV. Yes, there are a few vehicles that are faster, but not many. And really, this is more than quick enough to wipe a silly grin on your face.

The XM is also a surprisingly good handler, considering the size and height, with quick response to the wheel, little lean in the turns, and excellent steering feel. The ride is also a nice blend of comfy and firm, and again, you appreciate the engineering effort to do that on those massive 22-inch rims. All in all, this is not a pure race-focused vehicle like other M vehicles like the M4, but it is a true pure-bred performance machine.

With all this capability, itʻs nice to know you have loads of driver assistance available, including Front Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning and a Speed Limit Info system including no-overtaking indicator and manual Speed Limit Assist. We especially loved the 360-degree overhead view – even parking the big BMW in tight spaces was easy.

Itʻs an Investment

Well if you want to stand out from the crowd, you should plan to pay for it. The XM starts at an exalted $159,000. Our tester had a few delectable options incuding Silverstone with Vintage Coffee Leather ($2,500), Bower & Wilkins sound system ($3,400), M Driverʻs Package ($2,500) and Destination for $995. All totalled, we rang the bell at $168,395.

Competition would include the even more dear Lamborghini Urus at $237,848 and the 2024 Porsche Cayenne Turbo E-Hybrid at a more competitive $153,050. In other words, youʻre looking at rarified air – vehicles here are about as much of making a statement as they are raw performance. Choose whichever you like – weʻll be jelly.

With unique looks, awesome performance, a stunning interior, day-to-day civility – and letʻs face it, status – The XM serves up a combination thatʻs hard to beat. The amazing 2023 BMW XM isnʻt for everyone. And we think thatʻs the whole idea.

Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.

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