It’s always a challenge trying to snap spy shots of upcoming products, so we have to appreciate it when a manufacturer provides some images of their own, BMW sending over “official spy shots” apparently showing a camouflaged production version of the Concept XM SUV, a 750-horsepower plug-in hybrid.
Revealed ahead of the L.A. Auto Show last November, the prototype turned the controversy dial up to 11, as TheDetroitBureau.com originally reported, with a design as wild as the various one-off “art cars” the Bavarian automaker has unleashed throughout the years.
The production version of the Concept XM will be only the second unique model ever for BMW’s high-performance M brand, coming more than 40 years after the legendary M1 ended production. It also will be the first “electrified” M model; and by that we mean a true M, not one of the halfway M Sport offerings.
Info gleaned from the sneak peek
Why release spy shots now? The production version of the Concept XM is now undergoing extensive testing at the Nürburgring, it seems, and spy photographers literally pop out of the woods to snap shots of anything interesting racing by. So, it seems, BMW decided it’s better to release some images of its own choosing.
The model being tested was covered with a moderate amount of camo — but not enough to prevent us from noticing some changes since the prototype was revealed during a top-secret briefing in Los Angeles last autumn.
To start with, the original quad strip lights have now been paired with two more LED lamps, a layout more in line with the 7 Series. There are now real door handles, as well. The wheels look more production ready. And there are a handful of other tweaks — though the overall shape and design details appear to be holding to the original Concept.
One thing we’ll have to wait to confirm is the shape of the XM’s grille. The concept features a double-kidney design in line with what we’ve seen on some of BMW’s more radical new offerings, like the iX battery-electric vehicle. Some of the heaviest camo in these images shields us from telling what the production model’s grille will look like.
We’ll also have to wait to see how close BMW comes to matching the powertrain details revealed last November. At the time, officials said the final version will become the most powerful M model ever.
The Concept XM’s plug-in hybrid V-8 was said to punch out 750 horsepower and 737 pound-feet of instant-on torque. In production, BMW is now talking 650 hp and 590 lb-ft. The system will manage up to 30 miles in all-electric mode.
The drivetrain is believed to be a heavily modified version of the Bavarian automaker’s 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8, paired with a plug-in hybrid system. How many motors and whether it has replaced conventional turbos with electric ones is unclear. But it was heavily influenced by BMW’s motorsports program, said Frank van Meel, the CEO of BMW M GmbH, said in LA.
It’s the inside that counts
As polarizing as the Concept XM’s exterior design might be, the real controversy centered around its interior.
A single curved glass panel covered much of the instrument panel, combining both a digital gauge cluster and a widescreen infotainment display. Carbon fiber pieces took over much of the instrument panel and featured interwoven copper threads. Additional red accents were meant to underscore the XM’s sporting nature. The doors and front seats were finished in a rich cordovan leather that with the texture of a favorite leather coat.
It’s the back seat that really headed off in a new direction, however. BMW calls it a “Lounge,” a popular term with automakers these days. The rear bench was finished in a vibrant aquamarine — with seat bottoms made of a quilted fabric, while the backs were done up in a matte-finish leather. The floor, meanwhile, featured deep pile carpeting, while a thick headliner used both direct and indirect lighting.
How much the cabin design and finishes will change by the time the XM debuts in production form is just one of the many mysteries today’s “spy shots” fail to answer.
BMW reportedly will offer three different trim levels on the XM, Red Label, Black Label and Competition. Production is set to begin this coming December at the automaker’s U.S. plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Early indications are that the BMW XM will top $200,000, at least in higher trim packages.