At the Art Basel art fair in Miami, Florida (not Basel, Switzerland; the show is international, so, you know, keep up) BMW showed the world their new concept car, which is notable for a lot of reasons: it’s BMW’s first M car not to be based on a current production model since the M1 they stopped building in 1981, it’s the first electrified (as in a hybrid, not a battery electric) M car, and it will be the most powerful series-built BMW ever. All that, and a lot of daring, bold, and likely internet-rage-inspiring styling. Oh, and BMW says the headliner is “illuminated and sculptural.”
The Concept XM (which may include SiriusXM Radio in American markets; they didn’t say. They also didn’t say if XM stands for “extra medium”) will have a V8 combustion engine combined with and electric motor to give a total of 750 horsepower and 737 foot-pounds of torque, which will be, as BMW stated, the most powerful production BMW ever.
BMW also claims an electric-only range of 49 miles, which would likely allow many people’s daily commutes to happen without even having to wake up that big V8.
As a concept, most of the technical details aren’t really clear yet, but the styling direction sure is, so let’s take a look at that.
Overall, we can see a new design vocabulary emerging from BMW’s sketchbooks and computer screens, something that is, like a lot of modern BMW’s styling, interesting and even striking in details and parts, but less cohesive and elegant as a whole form.
That said, I actually think I like a lot of what is happening here, mostly because it isn’t—and this is crucial—boring. It’s not another suppository-shaped SUV that will get lost in a crowd of two at the Target parking lot. There’s a little bit of that low-polygon sort of faceting going on in the angular detailing, and I like that, especially the way it plays with shadow and light low down between the wheel arches there, where it cuts in to make the body feel a little more lean.
We’re dealing with four separate tones of gray here, too, from light to dark we have roof, hood/shoulder, body sides, and then the dark fender/lower sill and bumper cladding.
How will this adapt to actual color options? A similar range of value, or will just that middle gray change to a color? Let’s do a test with just the gray changing:
Huh. I don’t hate it.
I suspect BMW’s insistence on those massive kidney-nostrils will still cause many people to gasp and flop onto their fainting couches, much like I once did, but the truth is I’m actually getting used to these massive kidneys, and I think this more angular, simpler implementation we’re seeing here works better than what we’re seeing on current BMW models.
Also, illuminating the shape of the grilles as a DRL seems like a good idea and makes the cars extremely easy to identify in any light conditions.
Those tiny headlights might be concept car affectations, and I don’t see where the indicators are, but I suspect on any production model (BMW says they expect to build these by 2023) we’ll see similar slim headlamp designs.
Oh, speaking of lighting, look at the corners of the roof there: those are a pair of LED “searchlights” and while I’m not sure what they’s actually be used for, are pretty cool.
I do like the very undercut lower front, and how it gives the car a sort of animal-like profile:
BMW’s press release calls the side view of the car “an expression of unbridled dynamism” which is PR bullshit in such a raw, uncut form that I want to rub it on my gums like a cop in a ‘70s movie deciding if a bag of powder was cocaine or not.
There’s a lot going on in this profile, lots of facets and shadows and angles and shapes. It’s bulky-seeming, too, which reminds us that this M car is extreme not just in performance, but luxury, too. You’re most likely not going to be tracking this thing, and I think the impressive performance will mostly be exercised verbally, explained loudly by owners standing in front of the car.
The door handles appear to be cleverly hidden in that black accent band that traces the windows and then dips down to define that shoulder crease, and we can see the really exuberant wraparound taillight design here, forming what could potentially become a massive, arrowhead-shaped side marker lamp, if BMW has the ‘nads for that.
I think I like the rear view the best, as there’s a lot of interesting things going on here. BMW is committed to their serpentine taillight designs, so, good for them for going all-in on a theme, and I really like the way the lights appear to cut through the bumper, like a needle and thread, to re-appear as the lower vertical reflectors below. That’s one of the best designs for a separated-but-visually-attached taillight/separate reflector design I’ve ever seen. They usually feel like afterthoughts, but here it really works.
Those triangular/hexagonal quad exhausts are pretty great, too, and I hope are actually real exhausts. Exhaust pipes may take on an even more fetishy role as battery-electrics become more and more common, so may as well have fun with them.
The hatch height is quite high, and the opening looks a bit small, but I’m guessing the target market for these aren’t people who will be hauling a bunch of couches or whatever.
The roofline is interesting, too, dropping dramatically in the middle, and the pair of those laser-etched BMW roundels on either side is a little strange, but fun.
Overall, at the rear the XM looks surprisingly compact, which it very much isn’t, so that’s a novel illusion.
Okay, let’s peek inside, starting with that headliner BMW was going on about:
That low-poly look is definitely going to be one of those signature design markers of our era. Currently, I like it, though I’m not sure how it’ll age. At the moment, though, I think that headliner looks great.
And those seats! Do you have to be a freaking Viscount to sit there? What is that, crushed velvet? Look how it wraps around the corners! Is it wrong that I kinda want to roll around on there naked, at least for a little bit? Not in a pervy way, I just bet it would feel amazing. Is that supposed to be part of the appeal here? It can’t be just me.
Are these the floormats? Holy crap. No shoes in this car! And no eating Doritos back there, either, I guess.
The difference in look and materials between front and rear is interesting, and a design concept I’m surprised hasn’t been explored more previously. BMW is showing the dual nature of the car here, I suppose, with serious-looking leather upholstery and purposeful-looking seating up front, and decadent, Hunger Games capitol-city-like-vibes at the rear.
The cockpit features the huge, curved LCD dash display that we’ve seen on BMW’s electric iX SUV already, but plays more with interesting materials, like this:
This basketweave material is something I tend to more associate with old Porsches, or, in fancier versions like this, with cars like Singer’s restomod 911s. It’s nice stuff, and I hope it makes it to production.
Also, those climate controls are interesting, too.
The Concept XM introduces a novel design language development for BMW, and it seems plausible enough that I suspect the production car should be quite similar.
While I was skeptical about BMW’s design earlier, this does give me confidence it’s progressing in good, interesting ways, and while I don’t think it’s all there yet, it has my attention.