BMW’s fabled M-for-Motorsport division is the Harry Potter of performance wizardry.
Over the years, such superstars of speed as the M5 and M3 sports sedans, the pocket-rocket M2 coupe, and legendary mid-engined M1 two-seater have bubbled out of its cauldron.
So with our current passion for hulking, high-performance SUVs matched only by Ben and J-Lo’s mutual hots, it was just a matter of time before a true M-developed sport-ute arrived.
So, a round of applause please for the all-new BMW XM, the first-ever M-developed SUV, the most-powerful M machine ever created, and currently the most-expensive BMW ever. How much? We’re talking a jaw-dropping $159,995. Cough.
But this is not simply an M-massaged version of an existing model, like the XL-sized X7. No, what you have here is a new-from-the-ground-up plug-in hybrid that couples electric power with a thundering, twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8.
Combined, this high-energy pairing delivers a non-trivial 644 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough to hurl this 6,026-pound whopper – another cough – from standstill to 60mph in 4.1 seconds and on to a 168mph top speed.
And, courtesy of a 29.5 kWh pack of Duracells under the floor, the XM can run on silent, battery-power alone for around 30 miles, and up to 87 mph.
Of course, with such a standout powertrain, you need a standout body design. And here the XM stands out like Bonnie and Clyde at a police convention.
Those huge swollen kidney grilles on the nose couldn’t be more head-turning if you ringed them with bright-white LED lights. Which is exactly what BMW designers did. And there’s optional gold trim to go around the lights for added bling.
The body itself is a seemingly never-ending roller-coaster of swoops and curves, sharp creases and funky contours. I love that stripe set low beneath the side windows, and the bulging arches straining to cover the massive 23-inch wheels.
Climb aboard the XM will continue to amaze. Despite it having the same wheelbase as the three-row X7, there are only two rows. That means there’s now so much legroom in the back that BMW calls it the ‘M Lounge’. There are prom-night stretched limos with less rear legroom.
And when you look up, instead of the typical panoramic glass roof, there’s a funky, neon-backlit Alcantara headliner that feels like you’re in a slightly-sleazy Miami nightclub. I’d take a glass roof any day.
Strange too that with such a focus on luxury, the rear seating doesn’t comprise a pair of Barcalounger-style captain’s chairs with massaging and cooling. Instead there’s a flat bench. Without the massaging and cooling.
On the road, as you might expect of an M car, the driving experience is thrilling beyond belief. Yes, it’s blisteringly quick, especially when you engage launch control and feel like you’re being shot from a Ringling Brothers circus canon.
Mid-range acceleration is also a thing of beauty. With electrons combining with muscley, gas-slurping V8 power, the XM can slingshot past slower traffic, and catapult out of an on-ramp.
It also carves curves like a Hot Wheels on a slot track. The steering is precise, responsive and nicely weighted, the brakes meaty enough to stop time. The only negative is the ride, which is firm and jittery enough to loosen dentalwork.
Looking for a little more M-style excitement, this summer BMW will roll out a special edition XM Label Red version with 738-hp and 0-to-60 sprinting in 3.7 seconds. Just 300 are being built with a price tag around $186,000.
Me? My favorite performance BMW SUV is the astonishingly cool and exciting, all-electric iX M60. It packs 610-hp, is faster to 60 (3.6 seconds) and costs way less at $111,500. That’s my kind of M.