Shown to the world today for the first time at Art Basel Miami Beach, the BMW XM Concept is the precursor to the first standalone BMW M model since the storied M1. It’s big and bold, and offers a preview of a new front end design that will be worn by upcoming luxury BMW models. The good news is that the vehicle has the power to back up its borderline over-the-top presence with a hybrid-electric V8 drivetrain delivering more in the way of output than any previous BMW road car. The driving experience benefits from that split personality, offering near silent motivation, or something more similar to the feeling of being behind the wheel of a conventional M model.
Series production of the BMW XM is scheduled to begin at the end of next year at BMW Group Plant Spartanburg. BMW CEO Oliver Zipse confirmed that an all-new model would be produced at the plant earlier this year, and it’s not particularly surprising, given that the U.S. is a crucial market for a vehicle like the XM, and that the plant produces all of the other CLAR-platform-based X vehicles from the X3 to the X7. The XM is also slated to be revealed in full production form next year, as part of BMW M’s 50th anniversary.
“The BMW Concept XM represents a complete re-imagining of the high-performance vehicle segment,” explained Frank van Meel, CEO of BMW M. “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.”
Motivation comes from what’s described as the M Hybrid drive system. This system combines a BMW M V8—perhaps an entirely new unit, the first in over a decade—with a high-performance electric motor to develop the equivalent of 750 horsepower and 737 pound-feet of torque. That’s more than the fastest and most powerful production M car yet, the M5 CS, and also eclipses the all-electric output of the i4 M50. The XM Concept rides on 23-inch wheels and is a large vehicle, but the combined output of the M Hybrid drive system ensures an engaging driving experience.
“The design of the BMW Concept XM is an extravagant statement by BMW M in the heart of the luxury segment,” said Domagoj Dukec, vice president, BMW Design. “It has a resolutely standalone identity and embodies an expressive lifestyle like no other model in the BMW line-up.”
In terms of its appearance, the XM Concept is unlike any other BMW we’ve seen before. The front end features large kidney grilles, adhering to current BMW design language, but their horizontal orientation is part of a new front end design that will underpin future BMW models in the luxury segment. Squinted headlights split into two individual units on either side of the grilles are part of this look, and so is the contour lighting that frames the kidneys. Bold angles are everywhere, and although they often taper or terminate quickly, there are a number of individual performance-oriented details woven into the design to pick up where the lines leave off. One example are the power domes on the hood, which are mirrored on the contoured roof in the form of LED lights.
Another example is an entirely new take on BMW M’s traditional quad exhaust outlets. On the XM Concept, they’re hexagonal in their shape, and vertically stacked in their arrangement, as opposed to sitting side-by-side as they have for decades. Slim L-shaped tail lights divide the rear end, and as a stylistic reference to the M1, two roundels are used, with one on each side of glass beneath the contoured roof. In terms of color, much of the XM is finished in a tone BMW offered up until a few years ago called Space Grey metallic, while upper portions wear matte gold-bronze. The two finishes are divided by a band of gloss black, and like BMW’s other X vehicles, black cladding is present around the wheel arches and on the lower portions of the body.
The cabin of the XM is yet another exhibition of the concept’s split personality. It’s true that BMW’s X vehicles have always offered a deceiving amount of performance for their looks, size, and capability, but the XM Concept elevates these efforts to another level. The interior is separated into two distinct sections. The front features the driver orientation many of us have come to expect from BMW, but with an enhanced selection of materials which includes brown leather with a distressed, vintage appearance, copper accents, and carbon-fiber trim. Interior occupants are surrounded by yards of the aforementioned leather, which covers the center console, dash, door panels, and steering wheel including the airbag. The curved OLED displays in front of the driver convey iDrive 8—the latest generation—but with a specialized visual theme using the BMW M colors.
Although the interior dimensions of the XM could possibly allow for a third row of seating, as expected, the sloped-roof performance hybrid prioritizes opulence and luxury over utility and functionality. The aft portion of the cabin is where we find what BMW refers to as the M Lounge. Instead of the distressed brown leather used in the cockpit, the seats in the M Lounge are upholstered in Petrol-colored materials. Occupants are hidden behind heavily tinted glass, and the deep-pile carpeting exhibits a diamond pattern. The headliner is another striking element, thanks to its three-dimensional structure which is created using a combination of direct and indirect light. Ambient lighting themes adhere to the BMW M color scheme.
The XM Concept and the upcoming production model represent an important step for BMW and the M brand. Embracing electrification in the form of the i4 M50 and an M Performance version of the iX is important, but many of us have been waiting since the days of the i8 for a BMW performance hybrid with serious capability. The XM isn’t the sleek sport sedan or roadster we may have had in mind, but it’s an important first step nonetheless, and shows the potential of what’s to come.
When speaking in regard to design, the XM Concept adheres to BMW’s current motivation, and that is to elicit a visceral response. We’ll withhold judgement until the series production model is unveiled, but BMW concept cars from the last several years haven’t been too far off the mark in terms of indicating how things will look.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]