Premium The M division’s first own model since the M1 from 1978 is not a sports car but a 2.7-ton V8 plug-in hybrid SUV with a system output of 635 horsepower and 8 miles of electric range. Is it a genuine M car? We test drive a prototype!
Sometimes life must feel sour for engineerseven if they have the privilege of working in the M department:
When it comes to a new M-exclusive car 45 years after the first one, the new one is anything but a pure sports car without a giant SUV with a so-called M-Lounge that will embrace the rear seat passengers with extravagant luxury.
When asked if the plug-in hybrid colossus with 800 Nm can also fry tires like a real “M”, the driving dynamics manager shows a picture on his mobile phone as proof. Despite the lack of a true sports car platform, the M division seems perfectly motivated to create as much driving pleasure as the massive curb weight of 2.7 tonnes allows.
On the road, the XM has high precision and feels much less overweight than one would have thought. If you throw the big SUV through the curves, there will be neither wild rollovers, skidding rear wheels nor a tired understeering front axle. However, you can clearly feel how much the wheel suspension has to wear together with the anti-roll system to keep the excess weight under control.
The XM is less dynamic than the M SUVs and behaves anything but M-typical in hairpin bends. If you have activated the sport mode for both ESP and four-wheel drive, the car becomes sportier, but everything happens smoothly and you don’t have to steer. The rear axle steering is very effective but hardly fun.
The steering is experienced as very harmonious but not nervous and only small steering movements are needed. A 2WD mode is missing (thankfully) but BMW promises a real DSC-off mode. The only question is, do you really want something like that when you are sitting in a 2.7 ton lump of sheet metal?
The XM is not offered with air suspension because the system reacts too slowly and it doesn’t seem to be needed either: the big plug-in hybrid feels much more comfortable and relaxed than an X6 M, from which the seating position is borrowed, which feels less “bus” than the BMW X7. The ergonomics of the XM are reminiscent of a sedan, with comfortable sports seats with plenty of adjustment options, but without active seat climate control.
The leather in the XM is no longer lacquered but dyed through. The interior roof of the coupe is indeed camouflaged, but the reason is written on the iDrive knob: “Deactivate sky lighting!”
The driveline is by far the most important component for the comfort of the XM. Here, an electric motor of 204 hp has been integrated into the eight-speed automatic transmission from ZF. Although the electric motor does not offer any sporty characteristics, it is strong enough for relaxed driving in urban environments.
The internal combustion engine stays away in “electric” mode and only starts when you press kickdown or pull one of the shift paddles. Manual shifts are thus not possible in the e-mode, but instead automatic ones that happen so smoothly that you don’t even have time to perceive them.
In the hybrid mode, however, you can shift yourself and even let the internal combustion engine be braked by the speed limiter without the system taking away responsibility for the automatic transmission. Here, the electric spaceship sound from the speakers is also turned off, and the double-turbocharged angular octagon provides the acoustic entertainment.
The new 4.4-liter V8 internally designated S68 produces 490 of the car’s 653 system horsepower, hardly giving the XM otherworldly performance but plenty of power to squeeze you into the seat.
The inside of the changer is coated with PVD (physical vapor deposition) to prevent discoloration. In the lower tubes you can see the valve system.
The coolest thing about the hybrid mode however, is the immediate response (and by immediate, we really mean immediate): regardless of whether you’re sliding along at 1,500 revs in third, a firm push of the right pedal is enough to send the car off with massive power.
In E-Control mode, the battery’s charge level is kept as constant as possible to be able to deliver the drivetrain’s full power in every situation. However, on our 45-minute long test drive with a fully charged battery (25 kWh, two-phase charging with 7.4 kW), there was no opportunity to test this. We also didn’t come close to the promised 270 km/h (optional).
When the internal combustion engine is switched on, the car sometimes jerks slightly, and the gearbox also sometimes gives small jerks. According to BMW, the box should communicate more clearly than ever, but sometimes it clicks quite well when the next gear is pushed in and maybe it shouldn’t be? Braking can also feel jerky, although the brake-by-wire system is easy to dose.
BMW explains: “The area between 5 and 0 km/h always ends up at the end of the development.” So there is hope. BMW also reveals that the XM can do without carbon-ceramic brakes, which won’t be on the options list.
The car’s external dimensions, sprint ability and pricing keep to themselves for now. Next to a BMW X5, the XM feels considerably wider and longer.
The driver’s environment is dominated by the same dual touchscreen unit that we recognize from the i4/iX, which means that even the favorite buttons and the climate control have been moved to the infotainment screen. However, the XM still has an iDrive multifunction knob that works better than expected.
A cool detail: the car’s digital instrument cluster shows, alongside the internal combustion engine data, also the battery temperature, which most other car manufacturers like to hide (except the Porsche Taycan). Another thing we’ve noticed is that the gearbox controls in the center console are the same as in other M models.
The back seat? It has no adjustment options, but offers soft and comfortable padding and nice side support. There is plenty of room in all directions and edges, but the feet are cramped under the front seats.
When you have chosen a holder for a reading tablet, it really feels like an M-Lounge, and that feeling hardly belongs to the core value of the M department, but is certainly appreciated in the model’s biggest markets, in the USA and China, and as long as the large family carrier brings good profit for BMW, sports car fans worldwide get to enjoy the other M models.
PROCESSING: Tobias Mersinger /// PHOTO: Fabian Kirchbauer
Source: Senaste nytt från auto motor & sport by www.mestmotor.se.
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