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Hagerty Employee

Vision Thing: Is the XM concept a sign of BMW's downward spiral?

Is the XM BMW's Metallica by Metallica moment? Is this the point forward from which everything turns into a creative and aesthetic affront to the masterpieces that came before? Are we seeing an indicator that a vocal subset of fans should accept that BMW's best is already behind it? Possibly.

Last month, I took delivery of the 2022 X5 xDrive45e I ordered. Phytonic Blue, M Sport, most of the goodies. Even still, the grille is larger than it needs to be, and it’s the one sore spot in an otherwise cohesive exterior design. Inside, I don’t love the trapezoidal all-LCD instrument cluster in lieu of the traditional four round dials, but everything else looks nice. And 30+ miles of electric range is impressive; I don’t use a drop of gasoline most days, and I’ve only filled up once since I got it in mid-November.

But I think it will be my last new Bimmer. BMW seems to be steadfastly throwing every bit of their design heritage out the window and is producing some pretty gaudy designs.

The goofy X2. The blocky X7. That weird typeface they’re using in all their marketing, and the transparent roundel. The controversial M3/M4, whose giant top-flaired grille looks like a skull’s nasal cavity. The weird reverse-kink of all the coupes and four-door coupes (sans the X6) have, which looks like it could be from literally any other automaker. Whatever the hell is going on with the next 7 Series, and for that matter, the current facelifted one. The iX, which looks like a rabid beaver. The fact that they seem to be letting someone’s 15-year-old child run their social media presence (“Ok Boomer? Seriously?!”).

The XM is the ultimate culmination of that, designed to shock and stir controversy on The Interwebz, and to look like a dystopian apocalypse-mobile, in the same vein as the Cybertruck.

The problem is that while the folks at BMW are losing their collective minds, their competitors aren’t. Lexus finally seems to have arrived at a cohesive point with its spindle grille. Audi continues to make designs that, while flashier, are still largely cohesive—and they do the whole polygonal thing much better. Porsche has maintained its design superiority, even though its SUVs now use that goofy longitude-transaxle Audi arrangement. Although they are bit players, Lincoln, Volvo and Genesis are proving that less is more.

The good news is that Mazda seems to be making the march toward a premium future, with the new longitude platform and I6 engine they’re planning. And all their designs since they left FoMoCo have looked absolutely gorgeous. So my next car might be a Mazda CX-90, instead of a BMW.

Also, ironically, I do have one of the “retro” Jaguar XJs, albeit the 2006 Vanden Plas and not the facelifted 2008-2009 model you show. I love the design. It has presence and purpose, and it’s one of the last truly British cars ever (even if it may share more of the internationally designed DEW98 platform than either Ford or Jaguar cares to admit). I also love the striking, sleek 2010/11+ XJ, and would definitely consider getting one of those in long-wheelbase 5.0 or 5.0 S/C spec, if I knew the timing chains had been taken care of.

Intermediate Driver

The bad news is Toyota has its fangs in Mazda. I'm a Mazda fanboy and I fear for the brand. I'm just surprised Toyota didn't force Mazda to offer a "Mazdafied" version of the Solterra, um, I mean, the stupidly-named BZ4x. Wouldn't a third, barely-changed version have further helped with the economies of scale. After all, that's ALL Toyota cares about (see Supra).
Pit Crew

Somebody, anybody............Please kill this thing before it reaches puberty and has a chance to reproduce!!!

Somehow I get the impression that you don't like the styling.
Everyone's entitled to an opinion... Why yours gets an article is truly puzzling.

Now: "Is the XM BMW’s Metallica by Metallica moment?" gives me another impression; and that's ESL.
Advanced Driver

What Adrian said. Point by point.
Intermediate Driver

Hyundai has done you a favor by moving Peter Schreyer. You could --no, should-- poach him and give him the task of hiring new designers. Schreyer knows how to reinvent a brand's design --see a Kia from 10 years ago and compare it to the current lineup-- without making everyone gouge their eyes out. Some new Kias might be a touch overdone, but none of them cause vomiting.
Clearly, your own executives don't know what good design is and God knows your designers don't know it, either. The former is a pity (but not unusual, see Toyota) but the latter is a Crime against Humanity. Please, because I don't want to rid myself of the Internet, get rid of your designers and start from scratch. Hire the Hyundai-Kia guy!

He’s done very well. Some Hyundais are a bit overdone (although the recent Pony and Grandeur concepts are excellent), but Kia’s in general are very tidily designed. I really liked the previous generation Optima. Genesis as well, oversized grill aside.
Pit Crew

GM should be very grateful to BMW for the XM design; finally there is an SUV to make us long for the good old days when we could buy a new Aztec.
New Driver

I'm not a design expert, not even remotely close. I like the lines of my classic cars from the 60's and 70's and tend to think most modern cars look like toasters. I suppose I would give BMW a little credit for trying to be different, but to me it looks like all they ended up doing is looking like some other even less-sexy kitchen appliance, a refrigerator maybe. I've never actually laughed out loud when looking at a car's design, but I guess there's a first time for everything. Gazing at that idiotic frontal view with it's ginormous radiator, while reading Mr. Clarke's accompanying description of "squinting" and multitude of mismatched shapes, had me laughing out loud at my desk. I would be embarrassed to have that thing in my driveway, for fear my neighbors were laughing at not just it but me.

BMW lost their way in the Bangle era and just never really hav3 recovered styling wise. Most of their cars just got bigger, heavier and less focused. If you wanted Focused you had to buy a M. 

They are also boxed in by the similar styling they have used. Much like Cooper it  has to have a specific look that keeps it from changing in the right way. 

I would love to see them send out a few models for custom coach bodies like they did decades ago, 

Advanced Driver

Designed by people who think music is computer generated,vocals are talking with auto tune,and should be played on a high fidelity smart phone....then you can see this design is right up their alley.An abomination that perfectly fits the times.

It makes me laugh when I see young designers streaming music from their smartphones or the studio desktop to $400 Bowers & Wilkins headphones. Bitrate? What’s that?
Intermediate Driver

Great article and discussion. Thank you.
Advanced Driver

Ditto that! Hagerty is stacked with talented writers, but Adrian’s columns have risen to top for me. I have never seen such insightful & informed design critique anywhere. I’ve been a Cumberford reader for decades, but he can’t touch Clarke. 🍺
Intermediate Driver

Something is wrong with this article on new BMWs, when you Ctrl+F the word "ugly", nothing comes up.

New BMWs are like that intentionally ugly shoe trend that fancy designers peddled a few years ago.

Intentionally ugly isn't "bold" or indication that you're a free thinker as the rascals at BMW would like you to believe, just that you're a dependent objector that ran out of good ideas so you're going with bad ones.