2023 BMW XM: A New Kind of M

Published on March 17, 2023 in First Drives by Gabriel Gélinas

Scottsdale, Arizona—Previewed by the XM Concept that we saw at Art Basel in Miami back in November of 2021, the all-new 2023 BMW XM crossover is just the second ever product to be exclusive to the German automaker’s M performance brand. With pricing that starts at $220,000 and limited availability, you’re more likely to see one in South Beach, Beverly Hills or Dubai than Ottawa or Calgary.

The first M-only model, of course, was the legendary M1, which debuted at the 1978 Paris Motor Show. A wicked-looking sports car with exceptional performance, it spawned a single-make racing series called Procar that served as support races for various European rounds of the 1979 and 1980 Formula One championships.

With BMW M celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2022, executives went for an encore, although in the form of an SUV instead of a car. The electrified and electrifying XM is a direct response to the Lamborghini Urus PerformantePorsche Cayenne Turbo S E-HybridAston Martin DBX 707 and Ferrari Purosangue. Similar to the M1, it has no equivalent in BMW’s regular lineup, but it does use familiar components like a retuned version of the twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8.  

Photo: Uwe Fischer

Explosive, But…

Electrified? That’s right. The 2023 BMW XM is a plug-in hybrid vehicle with a clear focus on performance and not fuel economy. It boasts an NRC-estimated range of 50 km in pure electric mode thanks to a 25.7kWh battery (net capacity). The engine is paired with an electric motor integrated into the eight-speed M Steptronic transmission—a combination we’ll also find in the next BMW M5. Together, they generate a maximum system output of 644 horsepower at 5,400 rpm and 590 lb-ft. of torque between 1,600-5,000 rpm. A double-sided, dual-branch sport exhaust system with active flaps creates an equally powerful and thrilling soundtrack.

The XM sure is very explosive, but after testing the most hardcore versions of electric cars like the Porsche Taycan and Audi e-tron GT in recent months, full-throttle acceleration didn’t feel quite as visceral, even with the twin-turbo’s loud scream when pushed near its 7,200-rpm redline.

Photo: Uwe Fischer

Naturally, the XM is equipped with a sophisticated M xDrive all-wheel drive system that features a 4WD Sport mode sending even more torque to the rear wheels. A torque-vectoring rear differential takes care of the left-right split. On the winding roads and through the few roundabouts that we encountered, the XM proved extremely confident and playful.

The Adaptive M Suspension Professional is derived from the X5 M Competition and specifically tuned for this application (the XM is actually based on the X7). It uses a double-wishbone front and multi-link rear setup that features steel springs and electronic dampers. A 48V electric motor serves as an active connection between the two halves of the anti-roll bar at both the front and rear axle to enable flat cornering.

Ride quality is more than satisfying on slick pavement, but things get pretty stiff on rougher stretches—even in Comfort mode—which has us worried about driving the XM on some of the winter-ravaged roads up in Canada. There’s a price to pay, for sure, but the same can be said about all the aforementioned competitors.

Photo: Uwe Fischer

Steering is commendably precise, linear and responsive. By the way, for the first time in a BMW M model, Integral Active Steering is fitted as standard equipment, turning the rear wheels at a slight angle to enhance agility at moderate speeds and stability at higher speeds. Speaking of the wheels, 21-inch alloys on staggered tires come standard, while 22- and 23-inch units are optional.

Polarizing Looks

BMW has chosen to go with polarizing designs for its sportier and more exclusive models while showing restraint when it comes to more mainstream products. You can easily guess which group the new XM belongs to. The sharply sculpted body is crowned by a massive double-kidney grille with a gold surround, the daytime running lights are like the eyes of menacing predator, and the huge diffuser in the rear is impossible to miss. Incidentally, the unique layout of the exhaust tips is a tribute to the M1, just like the laser-etched BMW logos in the rear window.  

Photo: Uwe Fischer

The highlights inside start with the BMW Curved Display powered by next-generation iDrive 8 infotainment, though with M-specific graphics and menus. Arguably more stunning is the vintage-style leather treatment on the dashboard and door panels. And get this: fibre-optic light guides containing 100 LEDs are integrated into the headliner’s “picture frame” border to produce constant or dynamic light effects depending on the situation and selected driving mode. The creativity showcased here is simply at another level.

The 2023 BMW XM is on sale now in Canada starting at $220,000, with plenty of options that can be tacked on to that. The market allocation has not been specified, but expect about a hundred units to find a home across the country.

Photo: Uwe Fischer

Label Red

As if the XM wasn’t enough, BMW M has announced that it will go a step further with a higher-performance model. This one won’t carry the Competition, CS or CSL moniker, but rather a brand new “Label Red” designation. Set to launch in the fall, it will crank output up to 735 horsepower along with 735 lb-ft. of torque. Pricing and availability have yet to be confirmed.

Test drive report
Test model 2023 BMW XM
Trim level Base
Price range $220,000 – $260,000
Price as tested 231 900 $
Warranty (basic) 4 years/80,000 km
Warranty (powertrain) 4 years/80,000 km
Fuel economy (city/highway/observed) 19,9 / 13,9 / N/A L/100km
Options Silverstone II Merino leather with Vintage Café leather ($4,900), Bowers and Wilkins audio system ($5,500), black body accents ($1,500)
Competitive models 2023 Ferrari Purosangue, 2023 Lamborghini Urus, 2023 Porsche Cayenne Coupe Turbo GT, 2023 Aston Martin DBX 707
Strong points
  • Extremely dynamic
  • Awesome PHEV performance
  • Highly exclusive
  • One-of-a-kind interior
Weak points
  • Insane price tag
  • Expensive options
  • Polarizing looks
  • Stiff ride on rough pavement
Editor's rating
Fuel economy 3.0/5 There’s a big price to pay at the pump, too. But what did you expect?
Comfort 3.0/5 The ride is generally stiff, even in Comfort mode.
Performance 4.5/5 Explosive and exhilarating.
Infotainment 4.0/5 Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included, though BMW’s iDrive proves user-friendly enough.
Driving 4.5/5 Fun to drive? Most definitely.
Overall 4.0/5 An exceptional SUV with an exceptional price tag. You’ll love it if you can get past the polarizing exterior.
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