Now that the BMW XM is here, M Division executives have been answering a lot of questions about why it exists and why it’s an SUV. In a recent interview with Autocar, Frank van Meel explains why and the answer is refreshingly honest. Which is good because I’m sure I can speak for most BMW fans when I say that we’re tired of the corporate rhetoric.
Spoiler alert: the BMW XM was built to make money. It isn’t for enthusiasts, it wasn’t meant to beat its competitors, and it isn’t meant to move the bar forward. It’s simply made for the high-end clientele that are willing to overpay for flashy SUVs and van Meel admits it. “It’s not a super-sports car. But we didn’t want to make a super-sports car because the segment that is the fastest growing and the biggest at this time is the SUV segment.” See, that wasn’t so hard was it, BMW?
As frustrating as it is to hear that answer, it’s kind of hard to blame BMW. If you were a tailor and someone came to you and said “make me the ugliest, worst fitting suit you can and I’ll give you $50,000,” you’re going to do it. Who wouldn’t. Well that’s exactly what BMW’s doing with the XM.
According to van Meel, wealthy clientele—Urus, G-Wagen, and Aston Martin DBX customers—have been asking BMW when there’s going to be a high-end luxury M SUV. These customers’ pockets are deep and loose and they’re willing to let BMW’s hands into them, so long as they get a massive performance SUV with extroverted styling out of the exchange. BMW couldn’t resist and, let’s be honest, neither could any of us. Though, that doesn’t mean we have to like it.
I still remember sitting down next to then-BMW CEO Markus Flasch during a 2019 dinner in Los Angeles and I had the chance to pick his brain about the future of BMW. I had asked about rumors of a potential standalone M car, to which he admitted there would be one, though he wouldn’t disclose the type of car it would be. Visions swirled in my head of a small, Porsche Cayman-fighting, purpose-built sports car. Instead, it turned out to be a three-ton hybrid SUV with looks that even its mother can’t love. Needless to say, I was disappointed and I’m certain I’m not alone, even if I understand why.