The BMW XM’s introduction last year remains a perplexing moment in M’s history, and not for the reason you’d expect. Unlike the angry mobs that flooded our Instagram comments with a sea of complaints, taking dig after dig at the XM’s styling, I don’t hate it. Statement pieces should have a place in the car world. And while I realize that’s not exactly high praise either, we’re talking about one of the most polarizing vehicles unveiled in recent years here.
It’s not its SUV form factor that bewilders either. Although, given its extensive racing history, the XM isn’t what I believe M’s flagship should be, it’s tough to argue with the high sales figures high-power SUVs consistently pull in. I may not love it from an enthusiast’s perspective, but its existence is easy to reason from a financial one. Plus, as machines like the Aston Martin DBX 707, Lamborghini Urus, and Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT have repeatedly demonstrated, a big, heavy, high-riding machine can still offer a proper thrill.
Instead, it’s the XM’s performance that makes the least sense. Don’t get me wrong, its arrival is a massive deal for BMW’s M division. Not only is it the performance brand’s flagship product, but also its second-ever production vehicle. Yet despite producing a massive 644 horsepower from a hybridized twin-turbo V8, its 6,062-pound weight crushes practically any performance gains, meaning it’s no quicker or more enjoyable to drive than its much cheaper siblings, the X5 M Competition and X6 M Competition.
It took me getting behind the wheel of the 2024 BMW XM Label for things to click, essentially a 738-horsepower sequel to M’s range-topper. Previously known as the Label Red, the German carmaker dropped the second half of its name for yet unknown reasons, turned up its boost to squeeze an extra 94 horsepower, tweaked its suspension, and gave it new red badges. While that may sound like a short list of updates, they profoundly impact how the XM Label drives, making it a far more enjoyable machine to hustle up a twisty road. The Label is what the XM should’ve been all along.
My brief stint in the BMW XM Label took place during the carmaker’s annual Test Fest, this time held in South Carolina near its Spartanburg plant. The setup was straightforward. BWM lined up dozens of its products alongside one another in a large parking lot so journalists could hop in and drive off on one of two pre-planned routes. This arrangement, however, created a unique problem for the XM Label. See, very little differentiates it from its base counterpart, making it challenging for media and event staff to tell them apart. Unless you choose red exterior trim or wheel accents, only red-outlined XM badges differentiate the pair. And while I’m glad the word Label isn’t anywhere on or in this car, there are nearly no visual indicators that you’ve paid up the extra $26,000 premium it commands.
Conversely, if you’re a fan of the XM’s styling, you’ll be happy to learn it’s basically unchanged. My tester wore a dark Ruby Black Metallic Shade, one of over 50 BMW individual colors available at no extra cost, and a contrasting two-tone red and black leather interior. In line with the theme of its original name, the Label sans Red is only offered with a split-color layout and carbon fiber trim. Red outlined vents, contrast stitching, and an accented headliner tie the whole thing together. Like with its exterior, however, these changes are purely visual. Its dual-curved screens, infotainment system, and cabin layout directly carry over.
Instead, the BMW XM Label’s powertrain and chassis host the most significant updates. Thanks in part to increased boost pressure, its 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 now produces 577 hp and 553 pound-feet of torque. A permanently excited synchronous electric motor nestled within its eight-speed automatic transmission generates an extra 194 hp and 206 lb-ft. The Label pumps out a total of 738 hp and 738 lb-ft, making it the most powerful production BMW ever. Still, despite its power gains, it scoots to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, the same as an X5 M Competition, and tops out at 175 mph when equipped with the optional M Driver’s pack, or 155 mph without it.
However, these stats only tell half the story. While the standard XM was already a quick machine, the Label takes it into new territory, in line with what you’d get from a Lamborghini Urus or an Aston-Martin DBX 707, SUVs whose prices start above the $200,000 mark. Its V8, despite being heavily turbocharged, revs rapidly, which is helped along by its electric motor, making the Label feel far more responsive than its base counterpart. It’s alarmingly quick, instantly delivering a wave of torque that holds steady up the tach. There’s no instance in which M’s flagship feels sluggish or slow. It’s properly high-strung.
Perhaps more crucially than just turning up the boost, the carmaker’s engineers heavily tweaked how its gas and electric powertrains work together. Previously, as you drained its 19.2-kilowatt-hour battery pack driving up to 30 miles in electric mode, the XM’s V8 would kick in with a blaring cold start and an accompanying sudden jolt that shook the whole car unexpectedly. This lack of refinement was downright unacceptable for a flagship with a $159,995 base price. The $185,995 XM Label, however, solves the issue to the point where I didn’t even think about it during my short stint.
The tweaks don’t stop there. The Label’s standard air suspension system gets trim-specific calibration to handle the extra power. It comes standard with M Suspension Pro, an active anti-roll system, and active steering, all of which allow this over 6,000-lb SUV to take corners at high speeds without generating unwanted body motions. It’s strikingly balanced, even on tight switchbacks. Its only issue from a handling perspective is its footprint, which leaves no wiggle room within the lane. Its quick steering, excellent six-piston standard brakes, and rear-biased all-wheel drive system are all up to the task of swiftly moving this hefty behemoth along effortlessly.
Around town, however, things change rather quickly. The stiffened components that make the BMW XM Label a treat on a back road make it a pain just about anywhere else. Despite its major suspension revisions, M’s flagship is still noticeably firm, crashing over bumps and transmitting unwanted road noise and vibrations through the cabin.
In this regard, little separates the base model and the range-topper. Although things smooth out at higher speeds, crawling around town at slow speeds results in near-constant bounces, even in its softest setting. Its well-isolated cabin and plush seats certainly help, but they can’t overcome this SUV’s harsh nature, which results in a big SUV that, although sporty, isn’t quite as versatile as some of its exotic competitors.
I’ll admit. Having looked at its stats briefly before my first drive, I expected the BMW XM Label just to be a more powerful version of the standard model. However, in practice, it’s anything but. M’s true flagship houses significant improvements in almost every area. It’s not just rapid in a straight line but well-balanced in the bends, and thanks to its tweaked hybrid powertrain, it is more cohesive and refined. Although it’s technically not quicker on paper than an X5 M Competition, it certainly feels so in the real world, now genuinely up there with Lamborghini and Aston Martin’s best.
However, while the Label is finally what the XM should’ve been all along, it’s a few tweaks shy of being truly spectacular. Softer suspension tuning would go a long way. While enthusiasts might occasionally pilot this high-powered behemoth up a back road, it’s still, first and foremost, an SUV. Thus, it should offer comfort alongside this practicality and performance. Starting at $185,995, XM Label is still, like the base model that debuted last year, mainly just a statement piece, except now it has the performance and driving experience you’d expect from a proper performance flagship.