As BMW enthusiasts, this has been a long time coming. The M Division is finally building its very own standalone performance car, one not based on any preexisting BMW product. Admittedly, the original BMW M1 was also a standalone product but the M Division wasn’t really a builder of road cars at the time. The M1 road car was only built for homologation purposes, so BMW could use it to go racing. This new BMW XM, though, is going to be the first, true, purebred M Division product for the road.
While this BMW XM Concept is just that — a concept — BMW reps told us that its design is very close to the upcoming production car. Which means the massive, angular kidney grilles are likely here to stay, as is the aggressively sculpted hood, and potentially-controversial split headlight design.
The M Division Gets Electrified
It wasn’t a question of if but when BMW’s M Division would start building hybrid and fully-electric performance cars. That time is now, as the BMW XM Concept is the brand’s first-ever true plug-in hybrid. An all-new V8 engine will pair with an electric motor to make 750 horsepower and 737 lb-ft of torque, which not only makes it BMW M’s first hybrid but also the most powerful BMW in history.
Even more interesting than its power, the BMW XM will be also the first-ever M car to be able to drive on electricity alone. Being a plug-in hybrid, the XM Concept is said to have around 80 km of range on the WLTP cycle and 30 miles on EPA rating. No word on battery size just yet but it doesn’t need to be large, just large enough to provide a few miles of range, while adding power.
“The BMW Concept XM represents a complete re-imagining of the high-performance vehicle segment,” says returning BMW M CEO Franciscus van Meel. “It underlines the ability of BMW M GmbH to break with established conventions and push boundaries in order to offer fans of the brand the ultimate driving experience. The series-production vehicle – the first pure BMW M model since the legendary BMW M1 – also shows how we are approaching the step-by-step electrification of our brand.”
What Does a Purely BMW M-Designed Car Look Like?
The design of the new BMW XM Concept is interesting for two reasons. For starters, it’s an all-new vehicle from BMW; it’s not a refresh, it’s not an M Performance version, nor is it even based on an existing product. This design is completely fresh. Additionally, it’s interesting to see how the M Division approaches design on its own.
For starters, it’s a coupe-ish SUV but with a roofline that’s less aggressive than that of the X6. Though, you can clearly see the roofline and side windows taper off toward the back end of the car. An interesting “black belt’ line of black trim, that runs the length of the XM’s shoulder line, bisects the two-tone color scheme. As for the latter, the upper portion of the car is painted in a matte gold-bronze, while the lower portion is Space Grey Metallic.
It’s easy to see that the M Division wanted the XM to look imposing. While its size is more of a product of packaging — as having to stuff a whopping V8 and battery into a car that will appeal to modern, SUV-crazed customers naturally creates a big car — its design is clearly meant to exude sportiness and aggression.
The hood line is tall and the front end is very upright. Its monster grilles are illuminated, flanked by skinny split headlights and enormous front air intakes. All of which make the XM look extremely aggressive and imposing, if a bit obnoxious. Though, that’s sort of the point, isn’t it? You don’t buy a 750 horsepower, V8-powered, hybrid BMW M SUV for subtlety, do you?
BMW M also paid itself a bit of a homage, with two Roundels being etched into the rear window, a nod to the only other standalone M car ever — the BMW M1. When the super slim taillights come on, the etched Roundels glow red. Lower down at the back end are vertically-stacked, quad, trapezoidal exhausts protrude from the rear bumper.
The odd humps at either end of the rear spoiler look interesting, a design element I’ve never seen on a BMW product before and one I’m not sure I like or not but it’s an interesting look.
Luxury Over Sport Inside
If you’re thinking the BMW XM will have a super sporty cabin, being that it’s been designed by a motorsport/performance division, think again. The cabin of the BMW XM might be the most overly stylish and luxurious of any Roundel-wearing car. Thankfully, the design is all-new, with very few existing BMW bits carried over. The shift lever, door pulls, and iDrive system are the only major carryover items inside the XM, the rest is unique. Even the steering wheel is mostly unique to the XM.
BMW M used a new sort of vintage leather in the XM, which looks as if it’s been aged, like an old baseball glove. It looks cozy and soft, especially on the seats, which look like they’ll provide hours of comfy driving. That same leather covers the steering wheel and looks like it will feel lovely to hold.
The center console design is also entirely unique to the BMW lineup. It features three slanted openings; the outside two are vents, while the center one is a screen. Controls for the climate control seem to be metal and are placed underneath the vents. Above said vents is the same iDrive/driver’s display as the BMW iX, which is to be expected. Although, it does get a unique driver interface in the digital gauges, as it isn’t all-electric like the iX.
In the back seat, you’ll see the most unique looking rear seats of any BMW. The lower and upper portions are different shapes, materials, and designs. The lower portion is made up of a shiny fabric, while the upper portion seems to be leather. While it might not be the sportiest looking back seat, like that of the BMW M5 CS, it’s certainly premium looking.
However, it’s the headliner that will steal the focus of interior passengers, with its three-dimensional prism pattern. It gives the cabin real depth and makes it feel more like a lounge, rather than an automobile from the back seat. Quite the turn from the typically driver-oriented M Division. The front seats offer that same driver-oriented style the M Division is known for but the back seat is more lounge-like. According to BMW CEO Frank van Meel, who we spoke to during a closed-room viewing of the XM, it has a “Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde” feel to it.
It’s Finally Here
BMW fans have been asking, nay begging, the Bavarians to build a standalone M car from the ground up. Now that it’s finally here, albeit in concept form, it’s not exactly what was expected. Most fans wanted something a bit different, more of a purebred sports car, similar to a Porsche Cayman. Instead, what they got was a massive SUV with a hybrid powertrain and lounge-like back seat.
However, despite the BMW XM absolutely not being what was expected of the M Division, there’s no denying that it’s a unique and interesting car from a brand that’s been a bit predictable as of late. The XM is not only a standalone M car, something unique to the rest of BMW’s lineup, but it’s entirely unique in the entire BMW brand’s history. We won’t know whether the BMW XM is a good idea until we drive it but one thing’s certain — we can’t wait to find out.