Driving across the American West in techno excess with the BMW XM

BMW XM next to a very large Saguro cactus
Increase / Big power, big cactus, mostly big price tag.

Roberto Baldwin

I was driving down Interstate 10 in Arizona to California in the BMW XM, the latest luxury SUV from the German automaker. Dagger of Extravagance – A black-on-black SUV is about everything more. But it’s more than just a vehicle you stand next to while posing for social media; it’s a bold statement by BMW that it can fuse luxury with the latest technology.


With a starting price of $160,000, the BMW XM is actually quite a bargain when you look at its closest competitor, the Lamborghini Urus. I’ve driven both long distances, and the XM goes a long way while saving the driver about $75,000 — less than the price of a 2023 BMW i4 M50. So you get your show car and, well, another show car that’s an electric vehicle.

The XM is a plug-in hybrid, so you can spend most of your time behind the wheel in electric mode. It has an all-electric range of about 30 miles, so trips to Whole Foods and back could be a lot cleaner than those offered by the Urus since it’s a gas-only offering. But when I cross country, I burn out on the range within the first 30 minutes. In terms of efficiency, plug-in hybrids lose most of their appeal on a long trip. I could have tried to find a level 2 charger along the way, but that would have been a waste of my time and I would have been the jerk to stop someone with an EV from charging.

Even the XM's body and interior lighting make a statement.
Increase / Even the XM’s body and interior lighting make a statement.

Roberto Baldwin

The XM maximizes battery power throughout the ride, but the trick is that when you press the accelerator, the electric motor obliges while the gas engine catches up, like an eager puppy laying eggs on a big, powerful Great Dane.

At the wheel of the XM, I get it—I understand the desire to be seen. The car is quick and nimble for its size, and when I realize it looks like the Batmobile and I change the wake-up word for the built-in AI assistant to “Batman,” I’m equal parts happy and satisfied. Its hybrid-fused M-power pushes 644 hp (480 kW) and 590 lb-ft (800 Nm) of torque to the tarmac.

Long drives on the interstate can be boring and can be very tiring when driving a performance vehicle. XM solves most of this. Even in a straight line, you can feel the work that the German automaker’s engineers put into making the chassis tight for hours. Changing lanes seems a little more fun, but overtaking is where you can rush.

In terms of comfort, the sports seats offer a much better long-term driving experience than what I’ve found in some other luxury vehicles. The lateral and back support is especially welcome. The comfort of your seat may vary, but a chair that keeps you exactly where you need to be while minimizing slippage is key to a successful ride.

M-powered pillows.
Increase / M-powered pillows.

Roberto Baldwin

It also helps that the front seats are heated and ventilated and have a massage function. Who doesn’t love a massage at 75 mph?

One problem with long drives (especially after an early morning flight) is fatigue. Hours behind the wheel can lead to a frightening phenomenon known as “highway hypnosis.” Basically, the hum of the road and the endless line of white road markers can mesmerize the driver. Learn to be drowsy and you’ll be a danger to yourself and everyone else on the road.

At one point in the trip I became quite tired.

The rear of the XM takes the powerful luxury of the driver’s seats and rounds off the edges. It’s comfortable, and the quirky polygonal ceiling provided a relaxing design that lulled me to sleep as I curled up on the little pillows that come with the vehicle. The battery pack had a few miles on it, so I didn’t feel guilty about leaving the XM’s rear climate control running while I slept.

So, yes, the back seat is comfortable, and it’s nap-certified.

Street art in the desert.
Increase / Street art in the desert.

Roberto Baldwin

#Driving #American #West #techno #excess #BMW

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