Oh dear. Here we go again.
Remember when BMW unveiled the current M3/M4, complete with vast kidney grilles, and launched a thousand buck-toothed beaver memes in the process? Well, the internet’s raging all over again as BMW’s high-performance M division, which turns 50 this year, pulls the covers off another couple of new cars unlikely to be invited to an art gallery anytime soon.
BMW XM: M’s extrovert, electrified luxury future
Prior to the XM, BMW’s M division had only built one bespoke M car in its 50-year history – the wedgy, mid-engined M1 supercar. Every other M car has been a tweaked version of a regular, series-production BMW.
So, news of the XM’s arrival, which won’t be available as a regular, non-M BMW, prompted a fair bit of excitement… At least until it became clear that it’s a huge, eye-wateringly heavy plug-in hybrid SUV with impossible-to-ignore ‘statement’ design.
Some numbers. The XM costs from £144,980. Powered by a twin-turbo V8 and an electric motor driving all four wheels, it’s good for 644bhp and 0-62mph in 4.3sec. And if your finely-tuned mental database tells you a car that powerful ought to be quicker (the M5 Competition is more than a second quicker to 62mph with less power), perhaps now’s the time point out the XM weighs 2710kg. Yep, this a BMW M car heavier than Rolls-Royce’s Cullinan. A flagship Label Red XM will arrive in due course, but it won’t be any lighter, just more powerful, with 738bhp and a hefty price premium.
Point out to BMW that the XM is both challenging to look at and an affront to everything that made the legendary M cars great (low weight, elegant design and rear-wheel drive) and you’ll likely get two answers.
Design boss Domagoj Dukec had this to say in the wake of the Concept XM’s unveiling: ‘Whether comments bother me or not depends on the car. In this case [the XM] they don’t. We know the customers for this car want to stand out. We don’t sit here and think, “Yeah, let’s do something provocative.” It’s because we listen. And, of course, our sales figures are improving [M division had a record year in 2021, with sales up 13% on 2020.] So, you can read many bad comments on social media, “Oh, you’re going to ruin this!” But you can see from the sales figures that we’re not ruining anything.’
And if you’re worried for M’s future, BMW would like to point out that the XM doesn’t preview M division’s direction of travel. It isn’t planning to sell luxurious, big-ticket performance cars like the XM instead of cars like the M2, M3 and M4. It’ll sell both. Talking of which…
BMW M2: that’s more like it
Need a spoonful of sugar to help the XM medicine go down? May we introduce the new M2. It may not be pretty, sure, but if you’re feeling generous the boxy, ’80s-inspired design riffs on the legendary E30 M3 to create something with undeniable presence.
Ever since the M3/M4 grew big and lost its manual gearbox option (in the UK at least), the M2 has emerged as the most authentically M car in the BMW range. The new M2 doubles down on that promise.
It keeps the faith with no electrification, no fancy all-wheel drive and the option of a gearbox you work with a pedal and a gearlever. That said, the M2 takes its work seriously, with increased track widths versus even the M240i, a carbon roof as standard (as you might expect given the £61,495 list price) and optional carbonfibre bucket seats.
Power from the twin-turbo straight-six is up 89bhp to a handy 454bhp, and you can opt for an eight-speed auto or six-speed manual transmission, driving the rear wheels via an M active differential.
And if that all sounds like a timeless recipe for BMW M fun, that’s precisely the point.