Caraganza First Drive Review 2023 BMW XM: An enigma with a side of sauerkraut

It’s been quite a few years since I’ve had a chance to spend time with a vehicle that shouldn’t exist.  My automotive world in the last decade or so it seems, has been filled with vehicles powered by hybrids, plugins, and gas engines that seem to run together; one after the other. SUVs and crossovers mainly, because that’s what’s been selling.

Then BMW delivered me a new 2023 XM recently. It’s three tons of SUV, a little bigger than the X5 and a bit smaller than the X7. It’s a Bavarian behemoth playing a little game of ‘greenwashing meets fuel burning bedlam’ with this latest offering.

It’s a confusing mix as American as apple pie that’s crafted by the engineering prowess of those beer-swilling, sausage-eating Germans. And those Germans have decided to give Mother Earth a tender caress with one hand while flipping her the bird with the other. How, you may ask? Well, it’s a hybrid, but it’s also got a very large, very powerful V8 engine under the hood.

That engine is BMW’s newest version of its familiar 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8; on its own it pumps out 483 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque. Then they mated it to XM’s electric motor and in combo with the V8 it all churns out 644 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque.  The electric motor sandwiched into the transmission case draws from a 25.7-kWh battery buried somewhere underneath. Oh, and for an extra laugh you can plug it in and go full electric for what BMW says is a range of 30 pure electric miles.  And of course, all this gets the full on “M” treatment that only BMW can deliver.

The outside styling falls into the love-it-or-hate-it category. The large kidney grilles up front are edged by split headlights like those on the latest X7 with an angular racy sort of profile leading back to aggressive-looking taillights wrapping around the back. Those top off quad exhaust tips and diffuser elements all combine to give the XM an overall large but sporty look sitting atop 23-inch wheels.

Slide behind the wheel and you’re greeted with a cabin that’s as luxurious as a penthouse suite in Dubai. Soft leather, brushed aluminum, and more buttons than a NASA control panel. It’s like being wrapped in a cocoon of opulence complete with mood lighting that makes passengers feel like they are on a party bus on the way to the club when the sun goes down.

On the road the XM is like driving with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde simultaneously at the wheel. One minute you’re whispering past Priuses like a stealthy ninja, and the next you’re leaving them choking on your exhaust fumes as you blast past with all the subtlety of a freight train. It’s like sipping kale smoothies while bench-pressing a mountain.

And oh, that noise. Unlike other hybrids and all-electrics this isn’t some feeble attempt at engine noise piped through the speakers; this is the real deal. It roars and growls and crackles like a beast unleashed, reminding you that deep down, you’re still a gearhead through and through.

That V8 roars to life like a lion waking from its slumber. The sound is pure automotive symphony, a cacophony of power and precision. Mash the throttle and you’re pinned to your seat as the XM launches forward with the ferocity of a ballistic missile. 0 to 60? Who cares, it’s faster than you can say “strudel.”

But it’s not just straight-line speed where the XM excels.

The transmission with its built-in motor sends power to all four wheels via M’s version of xDrive. Throw it into a corner and you’ll be amazed at how this behemoth defies the laws of physics. It’s like dancing with a sumo wrestler who’s had one too many espressos. Sure, it’s not as nimble as a featherweight sports car, but for something this size, it’s downright miraculous.

At the end of the day the BMW XM is a rollercoaster ride of contradictions. It’s wrapped in an enigma, with a side of sauerkraut; a nod to saving the planet, followed by a defiant middle finger to anyone who dares question its authority. It’s a car that’s as absurd as it is brilliant, as extravagant as it is practical. In other words, it’s quintessentially BMW. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny the sheer audacity of it all.

And yes, the MSRP is just as shocking: My tester topped out at $165,895. But in keeping with the audacity theme that is the BMW XM, it’s really not all that surprising.

If you can live with the cognitive dissonance of being both a tree-hugger and a gearhead, then this might just be the car for you. Just don’t expect to make any friends at the local eco-warrior meet-up.

The 2023 BMW XM
MSRP: $159, 000
MSRP (as tested): $165,895
Engine: 4.4-liter twin turbo V8 with 198-hp electric motor. Combined horsepower 644 @ 5400 rpm, 590 lb.-ft. torque.
Transmission: 8-speed shiftable automatic.
Base Curb Weight: 6063 lbs.
Fuel Mileage (EPA): 46 MPGe, 14 MPG gas only.

Exterior Dimensions (inches)
Wheelbase: 122.2
Length: 201.2
Width, without mirrors: 78.9
Height: 69.1

Interior Dimensions
Passenger / Seating Capacity: 5
Front Head Room (inches): 40.4
Front Leg Room (inches): 40.4
Front Shoulder Room (inches): 60.3
Front Hip Room (inches)
Second Row Head Room (inches): 38.8
Second Row Leg Room (inches): 40.3
Second Row Shoulder Room (inches): 57.5
Cargo Space/Area Behind Front Row (cubic feet): 64.3
Cargo Space/Area Behind Second Row (cubic feet): 18.6
Cargo Space/Area Behind Third Row (cubic feet): 18.6

4 Basic Years / 50,000 Basic Miles
4 Drivetrain Years / 50,000 Drivetrain Miles
12 Corrosion Years / Unlimited Corrosion Miles
8 Hybrid/Electric Components Years / 80,000 Hybrid/Electric Components Miles
4 Roadside Assistance Years / Unlimited Roadside Assistance Miles
3 Maintenance Years / 36,000 Maintenance Miles

Greg Engle