BMW XM Concept revealed – near-production concept previews a bold new era

Purists look away. BMW M’s 50th birthday present to itself is a 739bhp SUV

It’s going to be a big year for BMW M, as 2021 marks its 50th anniversary – a milestone it’s keen to go all-out in celebration of with a year chock full of exciting new models.  But before BMW grants us access to a proverbial land of milk and honey with the new M2 and a possible M4 CSL, we’re first going to have to deal with this: the BMW XM Concept. This huge concept SUV is a thinly-veiled look at the production version due in 2022 and BMW M’s first bespoke model since the M1, a model designed to shock, rather than reference any of its motorsport heritage.

The concept’s hybrid powertrain will directly translate to the production version, and consists of BMW’s twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 engine combined with a lithium ion battery pack and electric motor. BMW quotes a peak power of 739bhp for the concept, with a combined 738lb ft of torque – putting these figures right on track for a combination of the M5 CS’s 626bhp variant of the S63 V8, combined with the 111bhp plug-in hybrid system found in BMW’s plug-in hybrid X5. BMW is also quoting a 80-kilometer range capability for the XM, suggesting it could well share the X5’s 25kWh battery pack which achieves largely the same figures.

The new XM itself will be based on the same architecture as the X5, X6 and X7, but as is clear from the concept, will differ markedly in proportions featuring a body that’s lower and wider than its more upright siblings. The concept is running on 23-inch wheels and tyres, a size that we expect to remain for the incoming production version, but we don’t yet know whether the XM will utilise the air-suspension and active anti-roll systems of the majority of BMW’s large SUVs, or mimic the more hardcore X5M and X6M with their coil-springs and adaptive dampers.

But what the XM previews under the skin is nothing really compared to what it says about the progression of BMW’s exterior design language as this is one pretty spectacular looking SUV – spectacular in the same sense of an erupting volcano or a failed triple back-flip on a motorbike. There’s a lot to unpack, so it’s probably best to start at the nose where the grille is tall, forward and extremely large. Unlike the less than graciously applied kidneys on models like the X7 or 7-series, though, these are much more integrated into the overall design. Super slim LED daytime running lights take the place of traditional headlights, and are supplementary to main units that are sleekly integrated into a dark void either side of the grille frames. 

From here, things go a bit berserk. The shallow windows are integrated into a wraparound visor effect windscreen with the use of blacked-out a-pillars, but when it meets the d-pillar the trim visually detaches from the glass, creating a second beltline in black trim that acts as a buffer between the Concept’s two shades of silver paintwork. This then informs the shutline between its front wings and clamshell bonnet. 

Things get even weirder around the back, where BMW has stretched the slim tail lights right around the XM’s rear quarter, almost intersecting with the rear wheel arches while creating yet another void space within their inner curvature. The tall rear diffuser and stacked exhaust pipes draw up the rear bumper, almost meeting the very deep rear glass that has been modelled in inspiration of the M1. This has been done by shaping the glass to incorporate two BMW roundels in the top corners, recreating one of the M1’s most memorable visual signatures that then define the shape of the sloping roof itself. There’s also an obvious lack of any form of rear spoiler or aero flicks around the rear screen, and while you’re up there, you might also notice the very odd shutline on the roof that suggests the rear tailgate might open from right the way down the roof panel. 

Inside, things are a curious mix of production-ready components like the steering wheel, dash, centre console and door cards with wild concept car-like trim and materials – especially in the rear seats which look to have a quilted blanket sewn into the place where traditional rear seats would go. It is very encouraging to see plenty of bespoke switchgear and an application of the iX SUV’s curved dual-screen setup, which should both make production.

The overall effect is certainly bold, and with rivals like the Lamborghini UrusMercedes-AMG G63 and Bentley Bentayga all competing at the very top of the SUV marketplace, the XM was going to need to be a little wild to compete, and it is. Rather than a gracious and delicate celebration of its 50 years, though, this is BMW M’s attempt to create an ‘it’ car that will do the rounds on social media and gain the positive attention not of traditional BMW M fans it already has on board (that’s us), but new ones as the brand progresses beyond combustion engines from 2030 onwards. 

This metaphorical split between BMW M’s current (and resoundingly brilliant) range of cars and the ones it’ll need to build in the future has been a big question mark for the brand. While the next M2 and M4 CSL will no doubt hit plenty of high notes, it’s cars like the XM that signal the first move in BMW M’s new generation. So far, it’s not playing it safe.

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