Hybrid BMW Is an 'Emotionally Potent Statement Beyond All Norms and Conventions'

The BMW XM is 'designed to be an emotionally potent statement.' Why?



BMW introduced a new hybrid car, the BMW XM, at Art Basel 2021 in Miami Beach, Florida. The car will be built in Spartanburg, South Carolina for the American market, which is "the most important sales market for the new high-performance car."

It is a hybrid, pairing a V8 gasoline engine with a high-performance electric motor, a combo that will deliver 750 horsepower and torque of 1,000 newton meters (737 pound-foot). The electric drivetrain has an all-electric range of a piddly 50 miles, but hey, as BMW CEO Franciscus van Meel says in the press release, “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." And as the head of design says: “It has a unique identity and embodies an expressive lifestyle like no other model in the BMW line-up.”

Front end of BMW


The front end, the part of the car that meets and greets pedestrians, is pretty dramatic.

"The boldly sculpted bonnet extends the contours of the kidney grille back in the form of two power domes. A pair of air intakes in the bonnet [hood] mimic the appearance of the LED searchlights in the roof and add extra dynamic flair. Framing the statuesque body at its lower edge are the clean-cut black surfaces of the front apron. Triangular body-colored blades at the outer edges accentuate the vertical air intakes while emphasising the sporty and robust stance of the BMW Concept XM."
Interior digital dashboard


The interior is interesting too:

"Inside the cockpit area, a decorative surface made from carbon fibre with interwoven copper thread creates a sporty and exclusive base for displays, air vents and control/operating elements. The new BMW Curved Display screen grouping positioned above it creates a neat balance between traditional driver focus and modern digitality."
Design sketches


The whole car is designed to be an emotionally potent statement.

"The impactful exterior design forms a visually expressive silhouette that exudes presence. The strikingly sculpted surfaces and extravagant lines create a unique design language. The design of the vehicle is described as "Bold, robust and new – the expressive design of the BMW Concept XM represents an emotionally potent statement beyond all norms and conventions."
Front end of car


So let's talk about potency, and about norms and conventions. BMWs attract a certain kind of driver: A Finnish study with a title we can't print in Treehugger that we wrote about a few years ago found that "self-centred men who are argumentative, stubborn, disagreeable and unempathetic are much more likely to own a high-status car such as an Audi, BMW or Mercedes." In another study, "Higher Social Class Predicts Increased Unethical Behavior," the researcher noted:

"You see this huge boost in a driver’s likelihood to commit infractions in more expensive cars, In our crosswalk study, none of the cars in the beater-car category drove through the crosswalk. They always stopped for pedestrians....One of the most significant trends was that fancy cars were less likely to stop,” said Mr. Piff, adding, “BMW drivers were the worst."
Corner of BMW


We have discussed how black cars are fundamentally more dangerous, that studies show that dark car paint colors are associated with a 10% higher relative crash risk.

Most recently we discussed how all cars should have geofencing and speed governors after the driver of a BMW killed two older people a few blocks from where I live. As mobility expert Kevin McLaughlin told Treehugger, "New cars are stuffed with screens, GPS, maps, googling this and apple-connecting that. The cars know where they are, how fast they are going - and what the speed limit is. All. The. Time. TODAY. No new tech needed."

Should cars like this be allowed on the roads?

car in rain


When the Dodge Demon was released a few years ago, Automotive News wrote the 840 horsepower car is "so inherently dangerous to the common safety of motorists that its registration as a road-worthy automobile should be banned." When I wrote about it, I concluded:

"At some point, we have to realize that there is such a mismatch between the big cars and the little cars, the walkers and the cyclers. Cars don't have constitutional protections and are tightly regulated; there is no reason not to have limits on power and acceleration."

The 233 comments are still there on that post, most of which are pretty negative about me and my masculinity, although not as bad as what I got on Twitter after writing about the new GMC Denali.

Looking up close


Perhaps I am a glutton for punishment, but this BMW XM is designed to intimidate, to be "an emotionally potent statement beyond all norms and conventions." It's fast. It wants to go fast. Its front end is high. It's potentially dangerous. Its range on electricity is a joke—those motors are there for the torque, the shot of acceleration that electric motors are so good at.

I am not going to come out and say that it should be illegal to build cars like this and have everybody yell at me. But surely in this day and age, the new norms and conventions should be that any new line of cars should be all-electric. And given its speed and power, it should definitely be geofenced and speed-limited like those dangerous e-bikes and e-scooters are. And they should be smaller, lighter, using less material with less embodied carbon, and should be designed to take into account the people around them, with softer, lower, less aggressive designs. Not this.

View Article Sources
  1. Lönnqvist, Jan Erik, et al. International Journal of Psychology, vol. 55, no. 4, pp. 572-576, doi:10.1002/ijop.12642

  2. "Is Car Safety Color Blind?" Consumer Reports, 2010.