DRIVEN: Bold BMW XM and athletic M2 raise the bar in their respective segments

Published Jul 31, 2023


By: Mpho Mahlangu

With an action-packed day ahead, which began early on a cold Cape Town morning, I had the ‘daunting’ task of choosing my first weapon for the first stint of driving. Being the first BMW M original since the M1, my driving partner and I decided to hop into the XM first.

Beginning with the elephant in the room, the exterior looks that is, it goes without saying that the XM won’t be to everyone’s taste. It’s bold, imposing and in your face, characteristics which I personally found myself fond of since its initial global reveal. Seeing it in the metal makes even more sense and I suspect many people will warm up to it, as has been the case with some recently launched BMW vehicles.

Up front, you find the BMW kidney grille surrounded by contour lighting, flanked by the distinctive headlights split into two separate units, with large air intakes present lower down. An accent band in gold, which is reminiscent of the black strip which ran along the body of the BMW M1 is present.

Other reminiscent features include the BMW logos engraved into the rear window and the louvred structure of the sculptural taillights. The BMW XM rides as standard on 21-inch M light alloy wheels however wheel sizes up to 23-inches are optionally available.

The cabin of the XM, as expected, oozes luxury appointments pretty much everywhere you look. There is a high use of quality materials used pretty much all over the cabin. Stepping inside up front, the driver is greeted by a model-specific M leather steering wheel. Behind it is the BMW Curved Display which measures 12.3-inches for the information display and 14.9-inches for the control display. The curved display is powered by BMW Operating System 8, with BMW Live Cockpit Professional fitted as standard.

The BMW iDrive Controller is on duty in the XM unlike in other new BMW models, a feature which I appreciated as it just makes operating the control display an easier experience especially whilst driving.

Further standard features include BMW gesture control and BMW head-up display which also has M-specific graphics like the shift lights. Audiophiles will be pleased to learn that the XM is fitted as standard with a Harman Kardon Surround Sound System however a Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System is optionally available.

The M multifunction pews don’t just look good but they’re quite comfortable and offer much support and adjustability too. The exclusive M Lounge at the rear boasts heated backrests, specially designed cushions, a sculptural headliner with a three-dimensional prism structure, photo mount-style border and 100 LED units which combine for illumination.

The BMW XM employs an M Hybrid drive system and a 4.4-litre turbocharged V8, with the latter churning out 360kW and the electric drive system 145kW, for a total system output of 480kW and 800Nm. Power is sent to all four wheels via a rear-biased M xDrive system. Acceleration from standstill to 100km/h is achieved in 4.3 seconds.

With everything dialled to the sportiest setting, the acceleration is brisk despite its 2.7-tonne heft. The eight-speed M Steptronic transmission on duty provides quick gear shifts via the steering-wheel mounted shift paddles. The handling characteristics are by no means the greatest there is however considering its weight, the XM can easily be forgiven and in fact appreciated for its ability to offer an enjoyable experience on the twisty roads we took it on.

With everything dialled down to the most comfortable settings, the XM offers a comfortable ride. Standard amenities such as adaptive M suspension Professional with electronically controlled dampers and active roll stabilisation with 48V electric motors and Active Roll Control, all contribute to the XM’s ability to handle like a large high-performance Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) when you want it to, whilst also offering great comfort for relaxed driving.

Driving in electric mode is possible at speeds up to 140km/h for a claimed range of between 82-88km. The internal combustion engine kicks in under hard acceleration, with only a short delay in the transition and power kicking in. A 25.7kWh battery is fitted and allows for AC charging at up to 7.4kW.

The BMW XM is priced at R3 400 000 and is currently on sale locally.

Now let’s take a spin in the BMW M2

Following my stint in the bold XM, the time came to get behind the wheel of the athletic M2. Powered by the same S58 3.0-litre turboc harged six-cylinder engine as in the G80 M3 and G82 M4, the M2 delivers 338kW and 550Nm in its application. Excitingly, power is sent only to the rear wheels via the standard fitment of an eight-speed M Steptronic transmission, with a six-speed manual optionally available.

Fitted as standard to the M2 is the M Traction Control function which has a choice of ten stages for thresholds of wheel slip limitation. I opted to leave the function untouched and as a result, traversing on stretches of our driving routes which had sunshine and dry tarmac, the M2 proved how grippy it is.

It may offer impressive levels of grip however it is still quite engaging and playful, especially once you begin to learn the M2’s limits. Aiding this is an M Active M Differential at the rear axle, which seamlessly generates a locking effect of up to 100 percent as and when needed.

Standard amenities also include adaptive M suspension with electronically controlled dampers, M Servotronic steering with variable ratio, Dynamic Stability Control with M Dynamic Mode, and a staggered wheel set-up of 19-inch light alloy wheels at the front and 20-inch light alloy wheels at the rear.

As a package, the BMW M2 is without a doubt a driver’s car. It requires focus and driver capability to tame it otherwise things could quite quickly get hairy. During certain parts of our driving route, we experienced light rain and stretches of roads which were rather damp and slippery. This made for an entertaining drive with lots of giggles shared by my driving partner and I, as the M2 livened up even more than it had throughout our stints of driving.

A key highlight on our driving route was driving up the infamous Franschhoek Pass. With all settings in their most aggressive mode, I experienced what was arguably my most memorable drive in my career to date. Playing with only second, third and fourth gear for most of the stretch, I not only appreciated how quickly the M2 accelerated, but also how sharp the brakes were, especially in their Sport setting.

Steering feel was precise and resulted in taking sharp turns quite easily. The ability to carry speed out of a corner without any real concern of the rear of the M2 stepping out was quite confidence inspiring.

Just like the BMW XM, the M2’s exterior looks have received much criticism. It’s simple: you either like it or you don’t. Up front, the M2 features a large, frameless kidney grille which has horizontal bars, and a three-section lower air intake. The rear, which is perhaps my favourite view, has muscular wheel arches, a boot lid spoiler and quad exhaust tailpipes which sound amazing.

Inside, the M2 boasts the BMW Curved Display which measures 12.3-inches for the information display and 14.9-inches for the control display. Powering the BMW Curved Display is BMW Operating System 8, with the latest-generation BMW iDrive also on offer. Standard amenities include three-zone automatic climate control, BMW Live Cockpit Plus with BMW Maps navigation system, Front Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning and Park Distance Control.

On offer as optional extras are the Driving Assistant, Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function, and Parking Assistant with Reversing Assistant. Further optional extras include the M Race Track Package which includes the M Carbon roof, M Carbon bucket seats, interior trim strips in Carbon Fibre and track tyres.

The BMW M2 is priced from R1 485 000

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