Here's why BMW M's next standalone car is an SUV, not a coupe

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BMW M's first standalone model since the M1 released in 1978 will be a big SUV called XM, and is due out before the end of 2022. While that might sound like a surprising move, especially considering some of the heritage-laced concepts that BMW has unveiled in the past decade, company boss Frank van Meel argued that there is a good reason for launching an SUV rather than making another high-power coupe.

"When we did the M1, every car company that wanted to say 'I have something special' built a sports car — that was the segment everyone wanted to enter. If you look today at the biggest, most important, and fastest-growing segment, it's clearly the SUV segment. And, in comparison to other manufacturers, we were still lacking this ultimate expressive luxury flagship at the top of M," he told Autoblog.

Unveiled as a close-to-production concept in late 2021, and previewed as a close-to-production prototype (shown above) in 2022, the XM will stand out with a love-it-or-hate-it exterior design that seemingly won't change much as it transitions from the show floor to the showroom floor. Living up to its positioning as the range-topping M model will require a significant amount of power, and it sounds like BMW will deliver. Power will come from a gasoline-electric plug-in hybrid powertrain built around a new V8 engine, tuned to develop 650 horsepower.

Here again, van Meel pointed out that the drivetrain is closer to M's heritage than it might initially seem.

"In our 50-year heritage, we've always looked at racing and series-production cars to see where each one is going and what they can learn from each other. We're continuing this with the XM: it has a V8-electric plug-in hybrid system and [our upcoming entry into the LMDh prototype category] also has a V8-hybrid drivetrain. You can see that when it works for racing, it also works for the high-performance cars."

Some purists will argue that a coupe with a mid-mounted engine would have been more fitting. Blame the buyers, in this case.

"Of course, there is the Mercedes-AMG G63, the Lamborghini Urus, the Aston Martin DBX, and so on. You see all of these high-end, very expressive models. For the customers, this is something that has been missing at M. That was the biggest demand," he concluded.

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