Audacious XM a change of direction for BMW’s M division

Published Mar 31, 2024


Life is all about change. Adapt or die. And learn to live without your Chocolate Log and KFC Avalanche.

Humans for the most part don’t like change, it’s a widely accepted fact. We get upset when our favourite products are discontinued, and don’t take it too lightly when our beloved brands change direction.

Car enthusiasts are touched on their studios all too often these days, which is why AMG’s four-cylinder C63 has won few fans. And literally no one has been shouting from the rooftops about Alfa’s all-electric future, which they might not be going ahead with after all.

Personally I can live without Nestle’s Chocolate Log but I’ll never forgive Cadbury for taking away that caramel and biscuit sensation that was the Tempo. And when it comes to cars, I really don’t like where BMW’s M division seems to be heading with vehicles like the XM.

The motorsport arm cut its teeth and greased its elbows on lightweight machines like the 3.0 CSL and M1, not forgetting South Africa’s very own 530 MLE.

Admittedly, products like the modern M2 and M4 still embody this spirit for the most part, but it saddens me that the first truly bespoke product that M GmbH has produced since the legendary M1 is this sledgehammer of an SUV.

2024 BMW XM xDrive

The BMW XM is big, brash, imposing and extremely heavy, tipping the scales at close to 2.8 tons. It also happens to be insanely powerful, with its 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol engine pairing with an electric motor to produce system outputs of 480kW and 800Nm.

Because it’s a plug-in hybrid you can also cover around 80km on electric power alone, according to claims based on WLTP testing data, so if you plug it in every day you might just save a seagull or two. Or not.

Admittedly, this is not the first sledgehammer of a car that BMW M has produced. The X5 and X6 M models were gateway drugs in the best way possible and the latest M5s have been a bit on the portly side too.

But love it or loathe it, the XM certainly makes a statement out on the road. If ever there were a car that seemed larger than life this would be it.

But it was only after stepping inside that this car really started making some sense to me. Not just for the cockpit area, which itself blends sporty and luxury vibes like I’ve never seen before in a BMW.

Most fascinating was the view behind, with the diamond stitched rear seats flowing into the doors to resemble large couches of the kind you’d expect in a cigar lounge. Or perhaps something altogether seedier. Velvety cushions are provided too, in case you had any doubt that the back seat was the place you really wanted to chill.

2024 BMW XM xDrive rear seat interior cabin

Oh, and if the evocative red interior trim is too much for you, BMW also offers more conventional tones like light grey, black and a rather soothing “Deep Lagoon” blue.

Either way, the XM will dazzle occupants with its 3D “prism structure” roof headliner that houses 100 LED lights behind it.

Standard amenities include four-zone climate control, BMW’s Travel & Comfort system and a Harman Kardon Surround Sound system. But if you want to take your sound experience to the next level, order yours with the Bowers & Wilkens Diamond sound system and its 1500-watt amplifier.

Although it lacks some of the dazzling features of the 7 Series, like that fold-out rear screen and those theatrical “My Modes” lighting themes, the XM is far more luxurious than you’d ever have expected an M product to be.

But is it any fun from the pilot’s seat?

Perhaps not in the traditional M car sense, but the XM is every bit as agile as you could expect from something this heavy, thanks to a rear-biased xDrive all-wheel drive system with fully variable M Sport rear differential..

Depending on what mode you’re in and the state of charge, it will waft along in electric mode most of the time, with a Hans Zimmer backing track syncing with the power delivery.

2024 BMW XM xDrive interior cockpit

But even when the V8 is called into action for those pedal-flat moments, there isn’t really a lot of noise or drama to speak of. Sure, that V8 grumble remains unmistakable, but it feels more like a guest player to the overall driving experience than an orchestra lead.

BMW claims that the XM will sprint from 0-100km/h in 4.3 seconds. But here’s the thing. The cheaper and lighter BMW X6 M will do that deed in 3.9 seconds. And a Lamborghini Urus S in 3.5 seconds, for that matter.

Not forgetting, of course, that there is also an XM Label Red edition with 550kW and a 3.8-second sprint time.

Alas, the BMW XM isn’t something you buy for its straight-line sprinting ability. It’s a bold and audacious luxury cruise liner that also happens to be fast.

It’s also really expensive, at R3.4 million for the regular XM and R4.2 bar for the Label Red.

IOL Motoring