BMW launches its 1st plug-in car in high-performance M line

BMW AG has announced the first vehicle from its high-powered M line that will run on electricity.

The five-seat crossover boasts 644hp, combined from its V8 engine and electric motor, and 590 lb-ft of torque. It comes with an eight-speed, all-wheel-drive that will propel it to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds. Overall top speed is 168 mph, though in electric mode it will inch along at a maximum of 87 mph.

Notably, the new XM shares its V8 engine and electric motor setup with a much faster car, the BMW M Hybrid V8 prototype racer that will participate in the prestigious 24-hour endurance races at Daytona and Le Mans in 2023 and 2024 respectively.

Buyers can assume the XM’s 30-mile all-electric drive range will burn off far quicker than that when driving at anything near racing speed.

In welcome news to many, the BMW XM plug-in electric hybrid will come standard with heated seats and not with the seat-heater subscriptions that fired controversy from South Korea to the UK earlier this year. 

BMW’s communique comes as the world’s largest luxury vehicle manufacturer works to overhaul its supply chain to deal with surging raw materials costs. It is also working to figure out how to capitalise on the smaller margins electric vehicles (EVs) have, compared to internal combustion vehicles.

On Sept 9, the company said it plans to buy EV batteries from six new factories scattered across Europe, China and North America. Batteries contribute the biggest cost in making electric cars and BMW’s strategy — to buy cells rather than make them — differs markedly from that of such competitors as Tesla Inc and Volkswagen AG.

The 5-seat crossover boasts 644hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. It comes with an 8-speed, all-wheel-drive that will propel it to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds

The company will have to watch the world’s strongest plug-in market — Europe’s — closely on the eve of this launch.

Plug-in hybrid EV (PHEV) sales have stalled there as rising sales of pure EVs command more market share. Plug-in hybrid sales fell 25% in August since a year earlier, even as those in China remained healthy.

This summer, PHEV sales fell nearly 30% in France and dropped 16% in Germany. In the UK, PHEVs sell at half the rate of purely EVs — valued as much for a “green-living option” box to tick as for the returns they produce.

In the US, sales of hybrids and PHEVs from April to June dropped 10.2% from the same period in 2021, according to Statista, a marketing and consumer data provider.

Production of the XM will start later this year at BMW’s plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Deliveries are planned for early 2023. — Bloomberg / pics source: BMW