If you’re anything like us, the BMW concept XM must have left a sour taste in your mouth when it was unveiled back in December last year. Billed as the first exclusively M-badged model since the M1, the soon-to-be-produced XM turned out to be a chunky SUV, rather than a sleek, low-riding sports car as one would logically expect.
While enthusiasts are left scratching their heads, the explanation to the controversial choice is actually quite simple – if not a little boring – according to BMW M boss, who said that SUVs are now basically the most important segment in the car market.
When asked by Autoblog, BMW M CEO Frank van Meel said, “When we did the M1, every car company that wanted to say ‘I have something special’ built a sports car – that was the segment everyone wanted to enter. If you look today at the biggest, most important, and fastest-growing segment, it’s clearly the SUV segment. And, in comparison to other manufacturers, we were still lacking this ultimate expressive luxury flagship at the top of M.”
Essentially, the reason BMW made the XM into an SUV is… us – the hypocritical car buyers. We like to think that we only want sports cars, but when it comes to buying cars, most people still gravitate towards the SUVs. And when the money’s there, you bet the carmakers will capitalise on it with SUVs of all shapes and sizes.
BMW themselves have already expanded its own SUV range, covering all the “traditional” numerical models from X1 all the way up to X7. Most of them already have their own full-blown M variants, too, which means BMW already knows that the demand is there for the super-fast M-badged SUVs. But with all that being said, a standalone M SUV model still seems pretty bold.
Not that they’re worried at all, with van Meel pointing his fingers to the other ultra-expensive SUVs on the market. “Of course, there is the Mercedes-AMG G 63, the Lamborghini Urus, the Aston Martin DBX, and so on. You see all of these high-end, very expressive models. For the customers, this is something that has been missing at M. That was the biggest demand.”
And for those lamenting BMW M for forgetting its motorsports-linked roots, van Meel has a rebuttal too: “In our 50-year heritage, we’ve always looked at racing and series-production cars to see where each one is going and what they can learn from each other.
“We’re continuing this with the XM: it has a V8-electric plug-in hybrid system, and [our upcoming entry into the LMDh prototype category] also has a V8-hybrid drivetrain. You can see that when it works for racing, it also works for the high-performance cars.”
The production version of the BMW XM is scheduled to be unveiled sometime this year, featuring a plug-in hybrid powertrain consisting of a “newly-developed” V8 plus an electric drive component. There will be two different power output guises, with the first one already confirmed to offer a total system output of 653 hp and 800 Nm.
This will then be followed by a more powerful version, matching the figures first teased alongside the Concept XM at around 750 hp and 1,000 Nm of torque.
Fine, BMW, you win this time. But I bet you still can’t explain the XM’s weird design.