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M1 Successor? BMW Previews 750-Horsepower XM Hybrid Concept

It’s been decades since BMW introduced a dedicated M car, so imagine our surprise when we learned the next one would be a boxy SUV. Considering the last standalone M was the ground-hugging wedge that was the M1 coupe, we have to assume M Division engineers were either trying to challenge themselves or someone higher up figured they could make more money selling a utility vehicle.

While just a concept at present, the BMW XM boasts a fairly radical design. But the manufacturer has claimed it will retain over 90 percent of the prototype’s good (?) looks when it enters into production. There’s a lot of interesting stuff here that might make it into the finished product, including the extra-thin daytime running lights that sit atop the real headlamps that have been snuck behind tinted glass. It’s a strange beast that doesn’t seem like it’s targeting the traditional M shopper and, according to BMW, that’s because it isn’t. 

“The BMW Concept XM represents a complete re-imagining of the high-performance car segment,” explained Franciscus van Meel, CEO of BMW M GmbH. “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 car – 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.”

He has also suggested that the XM was intentionally designed to entice consumers that hadn’t previously considered BMW before, stating that it’s a vehicle for non-conformist, extroverted types that just have to spend a barrel of money on trendy, status-oriented automobiles. Granted, I might have taken a few liberties in paraphrasing the second half of that sentence. But you get the idea. Like most BMW products, this one is being marketed toward people who believe they’re ahead of the curve.

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

Oh yeah. This is definitely the kind of car for someone leading an expressive lifestyle. No question about it. But let’s take a moment to consider the hardware that’s going into the XM and what that might offer someone who only cares about driving and when they might expect a production model.

From BMW:

The series-production model – the BMW XM – will be built from the end of 2022 at BMW Group Plant Spartanburg in the USA, the most important sales market for the new high-performance car. BMW M will therefore be introducing its first standalone vehicle since the legendary BMW M1 in the year it celebrates its 50th anniversary.  The BMW XM will be available in plug-in hybrid form only and exclusively as an M model.

The bold exterior styling of the Concept XM reflects the car’s exceptional performance attributes: dynamism, agility and precision, plus an all-electric range of up to [30 miles]. The newly developed M Hybrid drive system in the BMW Concept XM brings together a V8 engine and a high-performance electric motor to develop maximum output of 550 kW/750 hp and peak torque of 1,000 Nm (737 lb-ft). The first electrified vehicle from BMW M GmbH in the high-performance segment is therefore pointing the way for the future of the brand.

Unless this thing is carrying around the same weight as an 18-wheeler, it’s bound to be a rocket with the kind of output Bavaria is promising. However, the company has also spent plenty of time discussing how the XM would pioneer more opulent interiors and provide a luxurious driving experience. While that’s fine on the X6 M, the upcoming XM is supposed to be the first dedicated M car to roll down an assembly line since 1981. Since the M formerly stood for “Motorsport,” one would assume that performance would be the manufacturer’s primary concern and wonders exactly how gifted the SUV will be in the corners. Based on BMW’s other sporting SUVs, I’m guessing that this beast will be somewhere north of 5,000 pounds (hybrid systems aren’t exactly svelte) before you’ve thrown in any fuel or people. That’s a lot of weight to manage, especially with a high center of gravity.

The performance angle only gets shallower the more BMW talks about the SUV, too. Despite boasting a driver-oriented cockpit, the company makes repeated reference to the luxury segment spends whole paragraphs praising the XM’s “high-comfort (rear) seats and illuminated, sculptural headliner” that are part of the delivering “M Lounge” experience.

We haven’t seen the finished product yet and BMW is under no formal obligations to keep its promise of matching the XM Concept’s design. But we’re also running out of time if it’s to adhere to its 2022 production launch. It seems like we’ll be getting an exceptionally powerful, six-figure, luxury barge because BMW believes a hybrid SUV will sell better than a direct successor to the M1. While it’s a little disappointing to see the M badge repeatedly treated with such callousness, the automaker is likely correct in that assumption. BMW is also not hiding the fact that the XM is giving us a glimpse of the future of M Division and its new emphasis on luxurious interiors and hybridization.

[Images: BMW]

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