I am happy to admit I was a little scared of the XM Label Red. I mean, just look at it. It's somewhere between Darth Vader and a stealth bomber, its nostrils flared like a champion boxer facing down their opponent at a weigh-in, muscles tensed on a diet of roids and rage.

There’s no doubt this car means business – especially once you read the tech specs.

The new XM Label Red is the most powerful production car BMW has ever produced. The twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V-8 and electric motor combo delivers a whopping 738hp and 1,000Nm. The ‘standard’ XM packs 644hp and 800Nm, which is frankly more than enough for most people. But this is not a car for most people.

For a start, BMW is only making 500 of the range-topping XM Label Red Edition.

Despite weighing in at 2,795kg, it can hit 60mph in 3.7 seconds. That’s quicker than a Porsche Carrera 4. And with the M Driver's package, it will go on to 180mph before the limiter kicks in. The speedo shows 200mph, to give you an idea of its true potential.

Last month, the Label Red set a new record for hybrid electric SUVs at the famous Pikes Peak course in Colorado Springs. It completed the climb in 10 minutes and 48 seconds making it the fastest hybrid SUV yet.

Underneath the bulging panels, there’s all the engineering brilliance you’d expect from the M division: adaptive dampers, active anti-roll bars, electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential – everything you need to keep you facing in the right direction with poise and confidence. There’s eight-speed automatic transmission and BMW's M xDrive all-wheel drive system – including launch control – to ensure you get where you’re going as quickly as possible. And then mighty M Compound brakes to stop you when you arrive.

The XM is the brand's first bespoke M car since the M1 supercar more than 50 years ago – and although it's an entirely different beast, it’s still a beast nonetheless.
That is, until you actually live with it.

Unlock the car, and the first thing you’re treated to is a particularly attractive light show. The exaggerated kidney grille illuminates first followed by the upper headlight units twinkling flirtatiously, as if fluttering their eyelids.

The theatre continues inside; turn the ignition on and LED lighting changes from an ambient pearl white to a race between blue and red – the M colourway – heading from the front to the back of the car’s angular, sculptured headliner. This start-up sequence is complemented by a particularly visceral launch sound – like the trademark Dolby bass roll they play before a feature film. My ten-year-old son enjoyed it so much he just sat in the front seat for several minutes turning it on and off again. (Well, anything to keep him off the iPad, right?)

Sound is a big thing in the XM. The Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound system is possibly the best I’ve ever heard in a car.

Not just talking about the multitude (there are 20!) or clarity of the speakers – it’s the way they all work together for a properly immersive experience. This is surround sound Odeon would be impressed by.

Don’t believe me? Just ask B&W to go into full show-off mode. Press the ‘Experience Sound’ option and the curved cinematic display screen lights up with a spectacular on-screen graphic demonstration accompanied by a dynamic soundtrack, which emits from all around the inside of the car. Forget a drive-in, just sit in your drive.

For the detail obsessed there’s a lot to love about the XM – and not just the UFO-like covers for those B&W speakers. My personal favourite is the way the carbon fibre panels have alternating blue and red stitching woven between the familiar grey fibres. It’s a subtle but uniquely differentiating touch.

And I know they’re not unique to the XM, but cup holders that heat or cool depending on your drink of choice? Come on!

My favourite buttons on an M car are the racing-red M1 and M2 drive selectors on the steering wheel. You can set these up however you like, but for me they’re essentially Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde buttons. Configure M1 for the school run – quiet, comfortable, relaxing enough to ease you into the day. Drop off the kids, then hit M2 and see what the car can really do.

Yes, the XM may look terrifying, but it doesn’t always have to be.

And as for the paint job? You don’t have to select the Frozen Carbon Black metallic with Toronto Red accents – there are 50 colours to choose from – but if it’s good enough for Darth Vader, it’s good enough for me.

BMW XM Red Label

From £170,860; bmw-m.com