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