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How BMW M overcame the disadvantages of the 2023 XM hybrid SUV

BMW's XM might not seem like a full-fat M car at first, but it has still undergone rigorous testing to earn its stripes.

Building a 2.7-tonne plug-in hybrid SUV is one thing, but when it carries a BMW M Division badge, it needs to drive like an M car.

According to M Division CEO, Frank Van Meel, that means it has to drive with all the dynamism, precision and control of any car bearing the famous M badge.

So how does and engineering department, even one with M Division’s pedigree, go about making all that mass, length and height behave in an M-like way?

“Precision, agility and dynamics are key, of course,” Van Meel told CarsGuide. “But more weight makes it more difficult to maintain those attributes. Weight is the natural enemy of performance cars.”

But, said Van Meel, the XM’s layout meant it wasn’t all bad news for the design team.

“Because this car is electrified, that adds a lot of weight, but from a balance point of view, the weight is in the right position; at the bottom of the car. You need to put a lot of effort into roll stabilisation, so in this case the battery is actually a help because it lowers the centre of gravity,” he said.

“Using M suspension and a long wheelbase (the XM shares the X7’s wheelbase) also helps. Rear wheel steering brings even more stability and precision.”

Beyond that, one of the big considerations becomes heat management, both of the electrical systems and the vehicle’s conventional driveline components.

“Thermal management is always a challenge, especially when you’re outputting something like 750 horsepower and 1000 Newtons,” Van Meel said.

“You need to think about the cooling of electrics as well as oil coolers. The XM has nine individual oil coolers. But, I have to say, that this is not new to us, it’s something you have to do with any high-performance car.”

To support that statement, Van Meel pointed to the M Division’s in-house requirement that any M car needed to survive 30 minutes or race-pace lapping in 35-plus ambient temperatures at a California closed circuit known as The Thermal Club.

The XM is not excused from this test.

David Morley
Contributing Journalist
Morley’s attentions turned to cars and motoring fairly early on in his life. The realisation that the most complex motor vehicle was easier to both understand and control than the...
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