Automotive

Brutal BMW Concept XM bulks up on battery to become most powerful M ever

Brutal BMW Concept XM bulks up...
BMW loses the tall, oversized kidney grille featured in some of its recent cars in favor of a wide, oversized pair of kidneys
BMW loses the tall, oversized kidney grille featured in some of its recent cars in favor of a wide, oversized pair of kidneys
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BMW powers toward the near future with the Concept XM
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BMW powers toward the near future with the Concept XM
Swooping LED lights, chunky tailpipes and strange angles throughout define the Concept XM's rear-end
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Swooping LED lights, chunky tailpipes and strange angles throughout define the Concept XM's rear-end
BMW estimates an all-electric range around 30 miles
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BMW estimates an all-electric range around 30 miles
BMW packs 740 hp of hybrid drive might into the Concept XM
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BMW packs 740 hp of hybrid drive might into the Concept XM
Right up in that huge nostril, tiny eyeball
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Right up in that huge nostril, tiny eyeball
BMW quite deliberately separates the driver cockpit from the passenger seat
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BMW quite deliberately separates the driver cockpit from the passenger seat
We assume the two-tone interior and artsy headliner will be removed in the production version
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We assume the two-tone interior and artsy headliner will be removed in the production version
The BMW Concept XM delivers vehicle and multimedia information via a wide curved display
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The BMW Concept XM delivers vehicle and multimedia information via a wide curved display
BMW plans to introduce a production XM next year, and so far, it sounds like most of that concept styling will stand
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BMW plans to introduce a production XM next year, and so far, it sounds like most of that concept styling will stand
The production BMW XM will have some solid battery power, but it will still put out plenty of V8 exhaust through its quad trapezoidal exhaust tips
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The production BMW XM will have some solid battery power, but it will still put out plenty of V8 exhaust through its quad trapezoidal exhaust tips
Don't stand in front of it too long, or the BMW Concept XM might blow you over by exhaling
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Don't stand in front of it too long, or the BMW Concept XM might blow you over by exhaling
The artsy headliner uses a variety of lighting to highlight its shapes and surfaces
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The artsy headliner uses a variety of lighting to highlight its shapes and surfaces
That rear windshield looks to us like an animated cat head
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That rear windshield looks to us like an animated cat head
The exterior isn't winning any design awards, but the cockpit definitely has a high-performance, upscale look
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The exterior isn't winning any design awards, but the cockpit definitely has a high-performance, upscale look
Even a solid cloth can't quite conceal the rough Concept XM styling below
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Even a solid cloth can't quite conceal the rough Concept XM styling below
BMW debuts the Concept XM at Art Basel Miami Beach 2021
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BMW debuts the Concept XM at Art Basel Miami Beach 2021
The Concept XM's massive grille gets illuminated in Miami, as does its front roof line
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The Concept XM's massive grille gets illuminated in Miami, as does its front roof line
The thick roof and D-pillar and slimmed-down rear windows don't appear to work well from either an exterior design or interior luxury perspective
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The thick roof and D-pillar and slimmed-down rear windows don't appear to work well from either an exterior design or interior luxury perspective
BMW loses the tall, oversized kidney grille featured in some of its recent cars in favor of a wide, oversized pair of kidneys
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BMW loses the tall, oversized kidney grille featured in some of its recent cars in favor of a wide, oversized pair of kidneys
View gallery - 19 images

An art show isn't the typical venue to host a global concept car debut, especially when that car is a preview of a forthcoming model. But this year's Art Basel Miami Beach serves as the premiere venue for the all-new BMW Concept XM, a preview of the first standalone M car since the iconic M1 from the late 70s/early 80s. The XM stops by to celebrate BMW M GmbH's 50th while previewing the most powerful "M" to ever live, a super-SUV with 740-hp plug-in hybrid V8 powertrain and styling that's an acquired taste for which humans may never develop receptors.

The typical path to life for an M vehicle is as a high-performance, upmarket version of an existing model, but the production XM that will debut in 2022 will be sold exclusively as an M. It's built right into the the name, after all.

The XM won't be just any old M, either, as BMW conceives it as the most powerful M to ever reach series production. That feat will be achieved via old-fashioned piston-pumping muscle and newfangled electric tech melded together into a new M Hybrid plug-in drive with 740-hp, 738 lb-ft (1,000 Nm) of torque, and up to 30 miles (50 km) or so of near-silent, zero-emissions e-driving.

Don't stand in front of it too long, or the BMW Concept XM might blow you over by exhaling
Don't stand in front of it too long, or the BMW Concept XM might blow you over by exhaling

The XM is a big, bold step forward for BMW, and the design team gives the concept version the unapologetically big, bold presence to match. The new design language behind the Concept XM sheds the tall, hideous nostrils that once seemed on their way to becoming inextricably intertwined with brand styling, replacing them with an equally hideous pair of big, WIDE breathers that hint, not so subtly, at the high-output V8 power at work below the skin.

The illuminated surrounds of the floating octagonal kidneys set off a new lighting signature that continues through a pair of ultra-slim dual-eye headlamps. The remainder of the XM's face is downright brutalist, an aggressive mix of edges, angles and folds that makes no attempt at looking soft or attractive. That harsh, testosterone-drenched styling continues over a long, chiseled hood, up a steep windshield and down a thick, sloped floating roof that penetrates its way into the rear windshield.

That rear windshield looks to us like an animated cat head
That rear windshield looks to us like an animated cat head

“The design of the BMW Concept XM is an extravagant statement by BMW M in the heart of the luxury segment,” says Domagoj Dukec, VP of BMW Design. “It has a resolutely standalone identity and embodies an expressive lifestyle like no other model in the BMW line-up.”

Good for the rest of the BMW lineup, not so good for the Concept XM.

The thick roof and D-pillar and slimmed-down rear windows don't appear to work well from either an exterior design or interior luxury perspective
The thick roof and D-pillar and slimmed-down rear windows don't appear to work well from either an exterior design or interior luxury perspective

We'll save the sugarcoating for holiday treats in saying that the XM's ridiculous styling looks to be the product of designers hacking off pieces of various clay concept car models and smashing them together into one unfortunate amalgamation. The upper matte gold-bronze and lower space-grey metallic body sections don't particularly mesh from any angle, either with each other or with the black cladding; the tiny headlamps look downright silly extending out off the giant, flaring nostrils; the thin LED lights just over the top windshield corners seem best interpreted as digital antennae of an automotive alien; the swooping taillight strands clash with the sharp creases and edges around the rest of the rear-end (which don't particularly work on their own, either); and the wheel arches would look absolutely disjointed on any car design, none more so than this one.

The style could be forgiven (eventually) as experimental excess if the XM were merely an art show concept destined to disappear quietly into one-off history. But it's a production preview, and apparently BMW plans to retain 90 percent or so of its design. That just leaves us questioning whether the automaker is actively trying to self-sabotage its role as a premium automotive brand.

The exterior isn't winning any design awards, but the cockpit definitely has a high-performance, upscale look
The exterior isn't winning any design awards, but the cockpit definitely has a high-performance, upscale look

Luckily for potential XM buyers, the interior in which they'll spend their time debuts as a polar opposite to the exterior, a tasteful blend of smooth lines, surfaces and accents crafted from premium materials like rich brown leather, carbon fiber and copper. The driver-centric configuration splits the pilot seat off from the front passenger seat and pulls driver attention forward via a curved, wide-screen instrotainment display. In back, BMW creates a comfortable, spacious "M Lounge" upholstered in contrast petrol-shaded leather and velvet. Circling back to the whole Art Basel tie-in, the Concept XM includes a prismatically patterned headliner spotlighted via direct and indirect lighting, an element BMW fancies a "work of art."

We assume the two-tone interior and artsy headliner will be removed in the production version
We assume the two-tone interior and artsy headliner will be removed in the production version

BMW plans to begin building the production XM at its Spartanburg, South Carolina plant by the end of 2022. So the world won't have to wait too long to find out just how loyal it remains to the concept styling ... even if the world might prefer to put off that discovery.

Source: BMW

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9 comments
9 comments
minivini
Wow - are you a journalist or critic? Automotive styling, just like canvas or marble, is subjective. Understanding the elements (such as the two roundels on the rear - a direct nod to the M1) is key to appreciating the overall package presented here.

Things like “thin” led lighting are going to become virtually ubiquitous in design in the coming years as it lends itself to flexibility. Designers are no longer limited by the shape of bulbs and reflector boxes.

This vehicle will be marketed to the upper levels of luxe suv buyers, so I’m not sure what you’re so worried about. It’s a limited market worldwide. The cues and flourishes that make it into the future of this line remain to be seen, but I find the prospects are retry exciting.
Demosthenes
The ugliest car ever for people with no taste at all!
Bodger
The first image in the article had me asking if this was a case of careless photographer allowing massive reflections of surrounding rubbish or is it the world's worst camouflage paint job.
Ornery Johnson
@minivini: this is not a newspaper. I agree with you that automotive styling is subjective, but the author, while hyperbolic in his disdain, certainly has the right to his opinion in an online magazine format.
Ryanza
This is brutally ugly and putting the BMW roundels on the back of an SUV as a sign of homage to the the original M car, a mid engine, 2 seat SPORTS CAR is brutally disrespectful to the legacy of the brand.

What has become brutally clear is that BMW doesn't care 1 iota about its past, that era is history. The future of BMW caters to the mindless lemmings who need a metaphorical neon sign saying "Look at me! Look at me!"

The people who buy into this new trend BMW is trying to set deserve what the get!
Catweazle
I don't know about the most powerful, it most certainly is the ugliest!
BlueOak
Not sure it would be possible to style a more ugly SUV. Congrats BMW, if that was your objective.
Kevin Ritchey
Seems that ugliness doesn’t correlate into affordability for BMW. Don’t hold your breath if you expect a flood of customers coming your way dealers. I mean, what the Hell…
WB
Fugly doesnt even describe it. And the interior back looks like it has a soiled dog blanket on there. IF this is all they can produce, I better buy more Tesla stock.Hybrids are such a joke. Why having 2 systems when you can have 1. What is also brutally clear is that Tesla will brutally own half of the German market as soon as the Berlin Dreadnought goes online. They did it in the USA after Nevada was online. The Germans have no faint idea yet about the sledge hammer that will be hitting them in a year.. and if all they have to answer is this dog ugly concept car - oh boy that will be a rough awakening.