Now that the new BMW XM is here, at least in concept form, let’s take a look at its design in detail, because I think it’s important to talk about. The XM is the first car to ever be designed almost entirely by the M Division (BMW M did most of the work but it still had to pass by BMW head of design Domagoj Dukec). You might be thinking that the BMW M1 was actually the first M-designed car, as it was the first ever M car, but its design was actually outsourced to Giugiaro. That makes the XM the one and only M Division-designed car in history.
So how did the M Division do on its first go? It’s clear the designers in Garching wanted to make a bit of a splash, as the XM looks like nothing else in the BMW lineup and it’s about as big and brash as big and brash gets. But is it any good looking? Let’s take a look. Before we do, though, it’s important to note that this is just a concept car. Albeit, a very production-ready concept car, according to our sources. But a concept car nevertheless.
Front End Makes a Bold First Impression
Let’s start with the front end, as it’s really what the fans want to talk about first. BMW’s penchant for giant grilles wasn’t lost on the XM, despite being designed by a different division than usual. Like most other new BMWs, the XM gets a monster grille, one that’s every bit as big as the 7 Series’ and X7’s. However, despite its enormous size, the XM’s grille is far more cohesive and seems better integrated into the front end, proving that our criticism of the 7 Series, 4 Series, and XM grilles were more about design than size. The XM’s is illuminated as well, which may or may not make it to production.
Though, that doesn’t mean the XM’s front end is free of criticism. While the headlights aren’t anywhere near as controversial as some fans had expected, they’re far too small for the grille. Their dainty size makes the entire front end look completely out of whack. Admittedly, the funky upside down triangle headlights are likely concept-only and will probably be replaced with better looking, more production-read lights later down the line.
The hood features two interesting scoops, back by the windshield, flanking either side of the hood. I’m not sure if these scoops will make it to production but their placement is curious. That far back, they don’t look like they’ll do anything functional, so they seem to be aesthetic but, even then, they’re in a weird spot.
While the actual air intakes in the lower front bumper look pretty normal for a BMW, with angular lines and vertical vents, just super-sized. Beneath them, there’s an odd fake diffuser-looking bit of plastic underneath. Not sure if that actually helps with airflow or not but it doesn’t seem to.
According to BMW, the XM Concept is an SUV “coupe”, which is also what it calls its X6 and X4. Though, the XM is far different looking than those cars, with a less aggressively raked roofline and more traditional SUV tailgate. Its certainly sportier looking than the average SUV, but it isn’t as “coupe-like” as something like the X6. That’s a good thing, if I’m honest.
Aside from just being different, though, there’s a lot to talk about. For starters, let’s discuss the piece of horizontal black trim that runs the length of the shoulder line and bisects the top and bottom have of the car. It starts at the beginning of the C-pillar and then just arbitrarily stops ahead of the front fender, splitting the car into two halves.
In this concept form, a two-tone paint helps to further separate the two halves of the car. The upper portion gets a matte bronze-gold paint while the lower portion gets a Space Grey Metallic paint. Again, it’s unclear if the final production car with get either the two-tone paint or the shoulder line trim or both.
The wheel arches are very masculine and angular, as if they were drawn with only a ruler. In fact, looking at all of the car’s lines down the side, they’re all very sharp and straight, giving off a very cold, angular vibe that lacks emotion.
Though, the tall belt line, short windows, sleek roof, and far C-pillar all make the BMW XM look very aggressive. BMW fans will certainly be upset at the different design of the Hofmeister Kink. In BMW M’s defense, the Hofmeister Kink was never a true M Division design cue, but a larger BMW Group one, so it’s fair to overlook its redesign.
Further back, the taillights wrap around the sides of the car, deep enough that they actually sit over about an inch of the rear wheels. It’s an interesting look, giving the car a very wide stance.
Another unusual design cue for any BMW is the lack of Roundel wheel center caps. Every BMW since the dawn of time had Roundels on its center caps. Not the XM Concept, though, as it replaced those traditional blue and white centers with “BMW” and it’s jarring to see at first. There’s a hint of the Roundel in the geometry behind the “BMW” letters but it’s subtle and entirely unnoticeable from any sort of distance.
A Bimmer Butt Like No Other
Out back, BMW M went with some very new and interesting design ideas. For starters, the rear roof spoiler gets two humps on either side and the rear window forms to such humps. On the rear window, underneath each of the humps, are two BMW Roundels, etched into the glass, as a homage to the original BMW M1. I like this, as putting Roundels on body work harks back to cars like the aforementioned M1, the BMW 2002, and 3.0 CSL.
Moving down, we can see razor-thin taillights that create a similar L-shape to the X6’s but that also extend down almost to the rear bumper. Vertical rear reflectors also seem to extend those taillights past bodywork, which visually extends them even further.
However, the big focal point of the rear end is the exhaust pipe design. Since cars like the E46 BMW M3 and E39 BMW M5, M Division products have all had quad exhaust pipes; two side-by-side pipes on either side of the rear bumper. Quad exhausts remain on the BMW XM but are implemented in a very unconventional manner. Not only are they vertically stacked, rather than side-by-side, they’re also trapezoidal and oppose each other, like a flipped image. It’s the most unique exhaust design of any M car ever and it will certainly come as a shock to BMW enthusiasts.
Jekyll and Hyde Interior
During our interview with BMW CEO Frank van Meel, he said the interior is a bit like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in that it’s half cockpit and half lounge. The front passengers are greeted with a sporty but very high quality cabin. Rich, aged leather gives it a vintage look, the three-spoke steering wheel is sporty and also wrapped in that aged leather, and the screens tilt toward the driver, like BMWs of yore. The seats also look immensely comfortable and supportive, with thick bolsters and fixed headrests.
However, jump in the back seat and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s from a different car entirely. Instead of the handsome vintage-looking leather, the back seats gets a funky blue velvet with a repeating stitched diamond pattern. Look up and a three-dimensional geometric headliner gives the rear seat a lounge-like vibe that combines with the XM’s ambient lighting to make it feel like a nightclub.
The rear seats are very much designed to look and luxurious and stylish, which is in stark contrast to the front seats, which are designed to be sporty and enveloping.
Hit or Miss for BMW M’s First Proper Design Attempt?
BMW’s M Division was in an interesting position when it came to designing the XM. There were two different ways it could have played it; stick to BMW’s heritage or design something entirely new. Either way, it was never going to make everyone happy. If it stuck to BMW’s heritage, some fans would have complained they wanted something new and different. If it designed something fresh and different from what BMW’s doing, fans would complain that it was too radical.
So BMW M decided to say stuff and go big or go home. The BMW XM is the most wildly different Bavarian product since the i3 back in 2014. Like all things, it’s not perfect; there’s some good but also some bad; and only time will tell if the XM’s design is well-received by customers.
Of course, this is still just the XM Concept and not the final production car. However, we’re told that it’s very close to the production model. Which means, for better or worse, expect the final BMW XM to look a lot like this concept.