Ever since BMW unveiled the wild Concept XM in late 2021, enthusiasts knew they weren’t going to get a true successor to the iconic M1 of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Their worst fears came true last September when the M division took the wraps off the subsequent production version. A large and heavy SUV with a plug-in hybrid powertrain, the XM is no mid-engined supercar.
Only the second dedicated M model ever, the XM is the cream of the crop in the ever-growing BMW M lineup. If you’re wondering why the Munich-based automaker preferred a bulky SUV over a long-slung coupe, it all came down to customer preferences. Sarah Lessmann, Product Manager at BMW M GmbH, explains people want something different now compared to four decades ago:
“The BMW M1 was a perfect fit for its era while the BMW XM is tailor-made for today’s customers. In former times, sports cars were extremely appealing to a broad range of customers and highly relevant for car manufacturers. However, customers around the world today are looking for SAVs/SUVs that deliver practicality and high performance in one luxurious package. These vehicles have the potential to significantly drive growth for car manufacturers moving forward.”
Long story short, BMW crunched the numbers, and the SUV ultimately received the stamp of approval as projected sales of a coupe were lower. Sarah Lessmann admits the XM has an “extravagant design with unconventional proportions” but carries some M1 traits. She was primarily referring to the two roundels engraved into the upper corners of the rear glass along with the black strip running along the body.
When the electrified mastodont was unveiled, the German luxury brand also said something about the louvered structure of the taillights serving as a visual nod to the legendary coupe. Specifically, the three illuminated diagonal strips. That’s just about it as the rest of the XM is completely different.
While the XM is certainly no modern-day M1, BMW did create something much closer to the original formula. In 2008, the M1 Hommage was introduced at Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este to mark the supercar’s 30th anniversary with some design cues adapted from the 1972 Turbo concept that preceded the 1978 M1. Sadly, it was only a design exercise, with no plans for a production model.