BMW XM road test: plug-in hybrid SUV ups the ante for German car manufacturer

BMW has the Lamborghini Urus and Aston Martin DBX in its sights with its new XM plug-in hybrid, which takes the Bavarian brand into hitherto uncharted territory.

The newcomer is now available to order in the UAE, with an entry price of Dh750,000 (before options and personalisation). This spend gets you a potent super-SUV that’s clothed in offbeat angular bodywork that could be viewed as futuristic or visually challenging. It all depends on your perspective.

The XM’s building blocks are essentially the same as the X5M and X6M that currently spearhead BMW’s SUV line-up. It, too, is propelled by a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 engine and is underpinned by the brand’s modular CLAR platform that also forms the backbone of the former two models.

However, the XM ups the ante as its V8 engine is supplemented by an electric motor and 25.7 kilowatt-hour battery pack. The petrol-electric drivetrain pushes out total outputs of 653hp and 800Nm, enabling the 2.7-tonne XM to sprint from 0-100kph in 4.3 seconds and effortlessly reach its 250kph top speed. In addition, BMW says the XM can cover up to 88km in full-electric mode, enabling it to enter zero-emission zones (this will become more relevant in years to come).

The XM is also noteworthy as it’s BMW’s first dedicated M model since the hallowed 1978 mid-engined M1 supercar. This link is brought home by the twin BMW roundels that are laser-engraved in the XM’s rear window, mimicking the pair of logos that adorned the M1’s rump.

bmw xm road test: plug-in hybrid suv ups the ante for german car manufacturer

BMW XM’s sleek interiors. Photo: BMW

However, this is the only real commonality as the two models are chalk and cheese in virtually every other respect. The M1 was light and streamlined, whereas the XM has a hulking presence on the road. Even so, the big SUV manages to hide its girth reasonably well, should you find yourself on twisty mountain roads — as we did at the vehicle’s international launch in Phoenix, Arizona.

The XM is aided dynamically by a 48-volt active roll stabilisation system and air suspension at all four corners, and these two elements combine to all but quell pitch and body roll when you fling the weighty wagon across sinuous bitumen. You can certainly cover ground quickly in the XM, but there’s always the sensation from behind the wheel that a raft of electronics and computer software (rather than an inherent light-footedness) is making all this possible.

The trade-off for the XM’s agility comes in the form of harsh ride quality, especially if you put the adaptive dampers in their Hard setting. This slightly compromises the XM’s credentials as a potential chauffeur-drive vehicle, as rear-seat occupants won’t enjoy the silken ride that they’d get in, say, a Range Rover or Mercedes GLS.

This is a pity, because the XM’s cabin has a first-class ambience, thanks to high-quality materials and an artful layout that juxtaposes contrasting trim materials and colours.

The standard specification includes M multifunction seats, knee pads, a bespoke M leather steering wheel and the expansive BMW Curved Display that incorporates a 12.3-inch digitised instrument cluster and 14.9-inch infotainment screen.

The XM’s sculptural headliner is also an interesting touch, featuring a three-dimensional prism structure and 100 LED units for illumination. Four-zone automatic climate control, a Harman Kardon Surround Sound System and the Travel & Comfort System are all standard features, too. There’s a choice of four different trims for customising the interior, as well as a new Vintage leather for the upper sections of the instrument panel and door panels. Audiophiles can also specify the optional Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System with a 1,500-watt amplifier and four additional speakers in the roof area.

There’s plenty of scope to bling out your XM as the available rim sizes range from 21 to 23 inches, while the trim highlights that run across the car’s flanks and rear diffuser can be specified in gold or gloss black.

The XM is not without its merits. That said, the Lamborghini Urus and Aston Martin DBX are sharper and more engaging driver’s cars, while the Range Rover is more cossetting and luxurious. As a result, the XM falls somewhere in the middle. It doesn’t fully nail the brief in terms of outright performance or luxury, so its offbeat styling and opulent, distinctive-looking cabin could be the hooks that lure its target audience.

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