The BMW XM: Meet the New, Remarkably Vulgar Flagship SUV

Loud statements and strong statements are not the same thing.

bmw xm parked on white in front of a white wall
BMW

BMW just unveiled its new super SUV, the XM. The XM is only the second BMW designed purely by the M division — the first since the BMW M1 in the late 1970s. It's the M Division's first electrified high-performance car. And starting at $159,000, it will be the most expensive vehicle in the BMW lineup.

We can't wait to drive the XM. It sounds like one of the most impressive vehicles to emerge this year. It's a landmark, statement vehicle for the brand. But the XM's appearance is so garish that it seems BMW mistook a loud statement for a strong one.

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The XM is a PHEV, a beast of a PHEV
bmw xm
BMW

Plug-in hybrids aren't perfect. But they can be built now. And they can let their owner have both combustion performance and a relatively clean commute. And the XM PHEV engine sounds absolutely monstrous.

An updated version of BMW's twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 pushes out 483 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque. That pairs with a 194 hp and 207 lb-ft electric motor (can drop up to 332 lb-ft if needed). Total system output is 644 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. BMW says the XM can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 4.1 seconds and hit a top speed — with the M Driver's package — of 168 miles per hour.

With an estimate 30 miles of EPA range, the XM should be able to perform the average American commute without using a drop of gas.

Wait ,wasn't the XM supposed to be about 750 horsepower?
bmw xm
BMW

The XM Concept powertrain had 750 hp — a lot more than 644 hp. That version will be called the XM Label Red, which BMW says will pack more than 735 hp and 735 lb-ft of torque and start at $185,000.

The trouble is the BMW XM is cartoonishly ugly
bmw xm parked on a hill in front of a white wall
BMW

It's hard to know where to start with the XM's appearance. It's a cacophony of design elements and details that don't really tie together. It's okay to be unconventional and attention-grabbing with a car design. But there must be perspective, artistry and a reason for doing so besides being unconventional to grab attention.

I mean, seriously. Look at it.
bmw xm
BMW

The best place to start may be the front end, where the short overhang, concave face and expansive kidney grille make the XM look like a multiple-ton frying pan hit it head-on. The chrome element starts as conventional window trim, thickens at the Hoffmeister Kink and then darts into the middle of the door like my 5-year-old son was tracing and lost attention midstream.

Tiny slivers for headlights. Vertically oriented quad exhaust pipes because...that was a thing BMW could do? It's not often you look at a car with standard 23-inch rims, and that becomes an afterthought.

BMW used to design cars differently
jaenner rallye
Markus TobischGetty Images

The Malaise Era that stretched from the 1970s into the 1980s was perhaps the most unfortunate era for car design. BMW produced many of the best-looking cars from that era. Those designs still resonate now because the cars are well-proportioned, unadorned and let the performance grab the attention. The XM is the antithesis of that.

We should meet the XM soon
bmw xm interior
BMW

Many cars getting unveiled now won't arrive until 2024. But the XM arrives much sooner than that. BMW says production will begin in Q4 2022 and the XM will be a 2023 model year vehicle.

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polestar 3 from the side with a blank background
Polestar

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