If you were hoping for a new two-door standalone BMW M model to succeed the legendary M1 from 1978, we will have to disappoint you. For the time being, the are no signs that such a vehicle is in the pipeline, and instead, the performance division of BMW will launch the XM as the ideological follow-up of the M1. But why a big and heavy SUV instead of a sleek and lighter coupe?

The answer is easy. We no longer live in the romantic 70s or 80s when everyone wanted to have a coupe. Today, the fastest-growing segment is the SUV segment and every company wants to make a statement with a performance or super luxury sport utility vehicle. Take for example the Lamborghini Urus, Bentley Bentayga, Aston Martin DBX, Maybach GLS, you name it. BMW M is a little late to the party and the XM will finally debut before the end of this year in its production form.

Gallery: 2023 BMW XM Prototype: First Drive

"When we did the M1, every car company that wanted to say 'I have something special' built a sports car — that was the segment everyone wanted to enter,” BMW M boss Frank van Meel told Autoblog.com. “If you look today at the biggest, most important, and fastest-growing segment, it's clearly the SUV segment. And, in comparison to other manufacturers, we were still lacking this ultimate expressive luxury flagship at the top of M."

Sure, the purists probably won’t be very happy with the XM. A two-door coupe with a mid-mounted engine would have been nicer, but we had the chance to drive a prototype of the XM and our early impressions are surprisingly good. While the performance SUV is “a dramatic departure from the M cars that BMW has been selling for years,” it is still “the most intriguing BMW product currently in development.” And even though it has nothing to do with the BMW M1, it is closer to the BMW M heritage than it may look at a glance, at least according to van Meel.

"In our 50-year heritage, we've always looked at racing and series-production cars to see where each one is going and what they can learn from each other. We're continuing this with the XM: it has a V8-electric plug-in hybrid system and [our upcoming entry into the LMDh prototype category] also has a V8-hybrid drivetrain. You can see that when it works for racing, it also works for the high-performance cars," he added.

The XM will debut later this year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the BMW M division. The initial numbers show it will weigh around 2,700 kilograms (5,952 pounds) and will be powered by a hybridised V8 engine with a system output of 644 bhp (474 kilowatts) and 650 pound-feet (881 Newton-metres) of torque in the “base” version. A more powerful variant is scheduled to arrive next year with 750 bhp (552 kW) and 737 lb-ft (1,000 Nm).