Road test 2024 BMW XM G09

Road test 2024 BMW XM G09

The first M-only SUV takes BMW’s performance division way out of its comfort zone.

Off the reservation BMW XM

Words Georg Kacher

Photography Uwe Fischer

The 300-mile test


300-Mile Test: BMW XM G09. The first M-only SUV is a plug-in hybrid that’s almost as big as an X7. We explore Arizona in search of what it all means

Road test 2024 BMW XM G09

Do ya know why I stopped you, pardner?’ The voice framed by a pair of dazzling Ray-Bans and a brown stetson sounds jovial, but the gun resting in its waxy holster and the dancing red and blue lights inside the unmarked black pick-up speak a different language. ‘I suppose I was going a trifle fast?’ The smile bares a full set of stacked ivories. The officer nods. ‘Yeah. And you overtook a cop in the process. We don’t like that much.’

Road test 2024 BMW XM G09

I’m shaking in my shoes, imagining all sorts of nightmarish scenarios. But before events take a Tarantino turn for the worse, officer Mitchell breaks the spell, removes his sunglasses in an elegant slo-mo gesture that would have done Humphrey Bogart proud, sticks his head inside the cabin and nods at the BMW’s flickering wall of screens. ‘Feel like giving me a quick tour of this digital circus you’re dealing with?’

Happy to oblige, officer. And very relieved that a telling- off and some time spent at the Arizona roadside giving a guided tour of the XM is as bad as it’s going to get. But it really does take quite a while to explain everything that BMW – or more specifically M division – has seen fit to throw at its new SUV.

Inside and out this vast five-seat SUV, there’s a lot going on. Parked next to the anonymous chariot of the law, the dark blue XM sticks out like a visitor from another world, despite being built here in the US, at BMW’s Spartanburg plant. Its squared-off bow could have been shaped by a moonlighting Peterbilt designer; the matt gold accents would have done the late Gianni Versace proud.

This car is, in no unclear terms, a love-hate monument to excess in pressed steel, cast aluminium and glossy carbonfibre. It’s a statement of unbridled power and grunt. Adore it or despise it, the XM won’t escape your radar. Under that flamboyant skin there’s a combination of components available only in the XM, and the XM is available only as an M division product. It’s on a version of the CLAR platform, but with modifications that make it the widest BMW available, and almost as long as an X7. It’s powered by a turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 with a plugin hybrid unit, driving all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. A version will be used in the next M5. A later XM will be called Label Red, with the wick turned up to 738bhp and 737lb ft; it’s due to compete in this summer’s Pikes Peak hillclimb. But today, our loop through Arizona goes big on boundless desert studded with cacti and Joshua trees.

Road test 2024 BMW XM G09

First established when the gold rush lured fortune seekers across the nation, the remnants of this ancient east-west trunk road are now marked with yawning expansion joints, sheltered dips filled with pockets of sand and tumbleweed, and the odd ford fed by the winter’s last melting water. This is a paradise for bikers and truckers, but how will a 2.7-tonner fare along the rumble-strip straights and through the low-grip twisties? Well enough, although that extra layer of body fat does take its toll. The tighter the bends, the steeper the climbs and the swifter the changes of direction, the more obvious the effects of the mighty mass and momentum.

In contrast to many rivals, this BMW does without air springs, carbon-ceramic brakes and active aerodynamics. Instead, technical chief Dirk Häcker and his team opted for steel springs, adaptive dampers, adjustable anti-roll bars, four-wheel steering and extra-wide tyres measuring up to 23 inches in diameter.

As I drive through no man’s land with that virtual speeding ticket steadying my right foot, I mull over some of the super-SUVs that might be comparable to the XM.

The Lamborghini Urus, riding on the same size tyres, can be harsher still; the Aston Martin DBX 707 feels more compliant. The Audi Q8 RS is lighter and more chuckable, and its brakes easier to modulate. The steering of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT is crisper, lighter and quicker, and its performance is in a different league. The Maserati Levante Trofeo sounds better and accelerates like greased lightning but is all over the place when pushed. Only the Bentley Bentayga PHEV, the Maybach version of the Mercedes GLS and the Rolls-Royce Cullinan are dynamically clearly inferior.

In fact, after mentally going all round the houses, the XM’s main rivals may in fact be a pair of other BMW SUVs, the X5 M Competition and the electric iX M60. Our route takes us on to a native American reservation, which welcomes visitors with a mighty casino and hotel complex, an outlet mall and a vast trailer park – not quite the stuff those Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse yarns were spun from, but a handy opportunity to fill up the BMW’s fuel tank, which is down to a quarter by noon.

Whether it’s visiting native American reservations or watching professional buckaroos drive their cattle trains across the great plains like back in the old days, the idea of the Wild West underlies many of Arizona’s main attractions. Every big town has its own rodeo arena and horse supply store, is surrounded by ranches and a slim belt of irrigated farmland, and names its streets after heroes and villains like Wyatt Earp and Jesse James.

Most of the locals who come forward to check out the XM comment favourably on its mighty illuminated front end, the knuckle-shaped contours, the self-conscious proportions and the flamboyant livery. I love the looks of this daredevil statement of overt opulence.

For a change, the best seats in the house are in the back. Perfectly sculpted and lavishly upholstered, they curve round at the outer edges and almost become one with the heated door panels. They make it easy to get engrossed in conversation, looking your fellow passenger in the eye, with legs comfortably stretched out, a cushion in the back and the massage pumps on high.

The dominant view for the driver is the tall, curved display which stretches across two thirds of the facia, and the radically cleaned-up centre console. Gone are the coveted pre-select buttons, the once easy-to-use air vents, the intuitive climate control knobs and the direct-access keys for the heated and ventilated seats. The iDrive controller is still there, but it now masterminds so many functions that voice command has become a useful fallback system. A host of different dynamic modes vie for the driver’s attention. For a start there is Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus. Next, you must choose from default Hybrid, Electric and eControl (for recharging the battery on the fly). And you can fine tune the engine response, shift speed, stability control, damper calibration, three-step energy regeneration, digital sound processing and the exhaust note as well as the brake and steering action, both of which can assume a sportier or more comfort-orientated quality. But on an M car shouldn’t these two key interfaces, having been honed to a dynamically optimal state, be cast-instone constants?

Now’s our chance to find out how well the XM handles, as we’ve arrived in the foothills of the snow-capped Mc- Dowell mountains, having circumnavigated the Phoenix area for almost two hours on a grid of long and straight B-roads sprinkled with random stop signs and the odd roundabout at the entrance of generic prefab villages. The highway narrows down to a byway, climbing through a mixed bag of corners fast and slow. Potentially, this sort of environment is just where the XM belongs. But this M car is, first and foremost, a huge plug-in hybrid, not a rebodied X5 M Competition on steroids or an SUV sibling of the M5. Grip? No problem. Traction? Ditto. Roadholding? Stacks of it. But handling and performance? Not so clear-cut.

Redlined at a lofty 7200rpm, the revised 4.4-litre V8 develops 456bhp and 479lb ft, available between 1600 and 5000rpm. The rorty combustion engine is partnered by an 194bhp electric motor good for an instant 207lb ft. In sync, this adds up to 644bhp and 590lb ft. In theory, that’s plenty. In reality, though, the weight penalty would have spoilt the sport straight away had the M engineers not wedged an intermediate gear between the e-motor and the input shaft of the transmission. This artful device briefly boosts the e-torque to 332lb ft, thereby providing more take-off punch and extra full-throttle in-gear acceleration urge. But it struggles to deliver consistently: midrange pick-up can be tardy, the orchestration of ratios and revs can be hesitant or brusque, and launch control is not always wham-bang explosive.

Call it high-level moaning, but when the spec sheet reads 644bhp, one expects a more brutal power and torque delivery. Although the XM accelerates in 4.3sec from 0-62mph and will reach the 125mph mark exactly 10 seconds later, the X5 M Competition does the job in an even quicker 3.9sec – and it costs 22 grand less. Or if maximum zero-emissions range is your priority, you could save more like £80k by opting for the 483bhp X5 50e xDrive, which advertises up to 64 pollution-free miles, 10 more than the XM. The difference in acceleration is 0.5sec. Or the iX M60: it matches the XM against the clock while boasting a 352-mile range. Second thoughts, anybody?

Heading from Prescott towards Flagstaff, the route curls along a picturesque plateau before eventually turning right and down again, petering out close to Tortilla Flat of John Steinbeck fame, and Apache Junction. The roads are wider now and the turns tends to be faster, but what might have been smooth blacktop under Roosevelt has over time turned into a pale and porous turf dotted with cracks and crevices of random width and depth. The XM never puts a foot wrong here.

Its weight and the sticky XXL Pirellis provide unreal quantities of magnetic roadholding, the active anti-sway bars keep bodyroll nicely in check, and the steering is a totally reassuring if not wholly inspiring control mechanism. The strong brakes decelerate with aplomb time after time, and fading is an alien term to the all-steel apparatus. The long wheelbase and the hefty weight neutralise to an extent the negative effect of the wide 23-inchers. But like the X5 M, its PHEV sister model is never going to qualify for the Golden Eiderdown trophy.

According to the WLTP norm, plug-in hybrids combine the best of both worlds. In reality, however, the e-power advantage vanishes as soon as the depleted battery needs to be recharged en route again and again by the combustion engine. In the case of our XM, the mpg numbers duly deteriorate as soon as the V8 takes over and starts feeding the sizeable 25.7kWh energy pack, and it’s only thanks to officer Mitchell’s warning that the day’s average consumption does not drop below the 15mpg mark.

Outside Wickenburg, a 20-minute drive north of Glendale, the BMW meets two fans. Taking Maximus and Speedy out for a ride, cowboy Euston Davis and his mother- in-law Carol Birk are smitten by the XM’s metalcraft and leatherwork. Although they run full-size pick-up trucks for farm work and to pull their twin-axle horse trailers, they say they don’t doubt that EVs are the future. Even the M boys won’t dispute that, but since their battery- powered supercar is still at least five years away, they must plug the gap by beating the drum for this brawny PHEV, which has its plus points but is less compelling to drive than the X5 M Competition and nowhere near as green as the iX M60.

The zero-CO2 iX M60 matches the XM against the stopwatch. Second thoughts, anybody?


  • PRICE £148,060
  • POWERTRAIN 25.7kWh battery, 4395cc turbo V8, e-motor, eight-speed ZF 8HP auto, all-wheel drive
  • MAX POWER 644bhp @ 5400rpm,
  • MAX TORQUE 590lb ft @ 1600rpm,
  • MAX SPEED 155mph (limited)
  • ON SALE 2023 Now
  • WEIGHT 2785kg
  • EFFICIENCY 176.6-188.3mpg (official), 15mpg (tested),
  • EMISSIONS 33-36g/km CO2
  • RATING ★★★★
  • PLUS Beautifully crafted cabin; abundant power; 55 miles of e-running
  • MINUS Overweight; not very roomy; thirsty; ride and handling lack sparkle


  • Bentley Bentayga Hybrid Bigger and more luxurious, but still not as heavy as XM
  • Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid Smaller and 300kg lighter, with half the e-range but a useful bit sportier

2024 BMW XM G09 - interior

It is, first and foremost, a huge plug-in hybrid, not an X5 on steroids or an SUV sibling of the M5

Wide tyres on massive wheels create great bow waves.

iDrive lives on in a decluttered cabin Or replace them both with a pickup truck.

4.3sec to 62mph, yes. But where’s the feel?Cabin is ace, especially in the back, if not very spacious for such a big car.

Confused between the XM and the iX? Only one has exhaust pipes.

This vast SUV sticks out like a visitor from another world – despite being built here in the US

300-mile test
  • Pick-up: 0 miles - Love it? Hate it? It’s a big, bold visual statement – one that maybe makes the most sense in key target markets, which include the US and China.
  • 48 miles - The oddball mix of V8 and EV soundtracks can be partly silenced or enhanced by speaker. Ample road noise is available for free at all times.
  • 109 miles - In Sport Plus and manual, the forward thrust is sometimes staggered as revs, throttle commands and electric energy take a moment to sort themselves out.
  • 153 miles - The 3D moonscape alcantara-lined roof that debuts on the XM is framed by dozens of multi-colour fibres. Rules out a sunroof, though.
  • 201 miles - Still sifting through the modes, settings and programmes. Steering and brakes in Comfort or Dynamic? A question Porsche would never ask.
  • 235 miles - The best EVs are plush and silent. The best M cars are razor sharp and radically rapid. The XM falls short a notch or two in both departments.
  • 340 miles - Angled rear seats are great, although for such a big car the cabin isn’t huge. With the rear seats up, the boot is no bigger than the 5-series saloon’s.
  • 386 miles - Not badged X8 M as originally planned but XM like that highly unsuccessful Citroën, the newest M car seems destined to cause confusion.
  • 392 miles - Someone will be along to admire your car any second now, Georg… It turns more heads than the Bentley Bentayga and even the Rolls- Royce Cullinan.
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