Outside of BMW’s circle, few people saw the XM coming. After all, the Munich-based company already had M versions of the X5 and X6, along with an M Performance X7 and the ALPINA XB7. With a starting price of $159,000, it’s significantly more expensive than all those high-performance SUVs and yet it’s not necessarily any faster. That raises the question – who is buying the first dedicated M car since the good ol’ days of the M1?

BMW M believes the United States, China, and the Middle East will be the XM’s main markets. The German luxury brand argues there’s a niche for people who want a speedy SUV with an extremely bold design that has vague hints of an M1, namely the two roundels in the upper corners of the rear window and the line running along the side profile. Seen here is the flagship model from BMW M in Marina Bay Blue, one of the seven metallic paints available at launch.

It (mostly) does away with the eccentric gold accents by featuring the Extended Shadowline treatment with plenty of black accents throughout the exterior. Inside, the cabin has been bathed in Silverstone leather with exclusive Vintage Coffee leather for the upper panels. The XM may be about maximizing performance in SUV format, but you do get a couple pillows in the back where passengers relax on a so-called M Lounge.

We have to give credit where it’s due because BMW is not afraid to take bold steps by coming out with such an eccentric product. According to Sarah Lessmann, Product Manager at BMW M GmbH, the wild-looking XM came as a response to customer demand as tastes have greatly changed since the mid-engined M1 era:

“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.”

As if the XM wasn’t already an attention-grabbing SUV, fresh Individual colors have been launched and we mustn’t forget the 748-horsepower Label Red is coming soon in May with exclusive design accents inside and out. At the other end of the lineup, we’re expecting to see a more affordable inline-six variant (still a PHEV) arrive in the coming years.