Even a couple of years before the pandemic shook up the automotive world, there were whispers of an all-new SUV coming out of BMW’s heartland in Bavaria, as the BMW X8. This was a time when the BMW X7 was still brand-new, though rumors suggesting an even larger and more powerful model by BMW persist to this date. But what is this mystery car that has had brand loyalists so eager and excited? Let’s dive a little deeper into the story to find out.
Spy shots & new rumors, but no BMW X8?
Considering its suggested placement in the BMW line-up, the all-new model was naturally christened as the BMW X8. International media heralded it as the latest BMW flagship, eclipsing the X7 to become the most expensive SUV by the Bavarian automaker.
Spy shots of a large camouflaged SUV were doing the rounds in 2021, with the test mules captured at the Nürburgring and on everyday public roads in Germany. Web media reports then suggested that the new model will likely be a coupe version of the X7, with an expected price tag of over USD 100,000.
We now know that the heavily-disguised prototypes captured by spy media back then showed up in production guise as the plug-in hybrid BMW XM in September 2022. In its most aggressive & brand-new ‘Label Red’ avatar, the SUV pairs a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 engine with an electric motor, producing a combined 738 hp and 737 lb.-ft. of torque. The 2023 XM starts from USD 159,000 in the U.S., with the Label Red likely costing over USD 185,000.
SUVs remain BMW’s mainstay in the U.S., XM still the flagship
The brand’s largest SUV, the X7, made its international debut in October 2018. In late 2022, the MY2023 X7 arrived with a mid-cycle refresh & new features. BMW sold 10,735 units of the three-row SUV in the fourth quarter of 2022 and 30,706 units in the whole year, making it the company’s fourth best-selling model in the U.S.
With the global supply chain gradually on the mend post the pandemic, BMW would wish to ramp up the production of its most popular & top-selling models, of which the X7 is a prime example. Meanwhile, the XM should continue to be the brand’s top-of-the-line performance SUV, but its production numbers will understandably pale in comparison to the more comfort-oriented X7.
BMW’s electrification strategy, core models to be given priority
With global emission norms expected to tighten its noose over the traditional internal combustion engine before the end of this decade, the BMW Group continues to be bullish with its electric mobility plans, climate-neutrality goals, and strategies revolving around future vehicle offerings. The brand is aiming to electrify at least 30 percent of its global line-up by 2025, with around 50 percent of worldwide deliveries expected to comprise fully electric models by 2030.
By the end of 2023, the Bavarian automaker also wants to offer at least one fully-electric model across the various segments it operates in. Starting in 2025, next-gen models such as the new BMW iX3 and the BMW 3 Series Electric, are to be based on the ‘Neue Klasse’ platform, which will be an 800-volt architecture with fast-charging times as quick as 12 minutes.
As with most legacy automakers, BMW is playing catch-up with Tesla when it comes to large-volume EVs that customers actually want. Therefore, the brand would rather focus its precious time and resources on high-volume models than invest in brand-new but niche projects with lower returns, such as the BMW X8
Alpina acquisition & possible market saturation for high-end SUVs?
In early 2022, the prestigious performance-only Alpina brand was absorbed by the BMW Group. Soon after, the 2023 BMW Alpina XB7 was launched as the ultimate expression of performance and luxury in a full-size family SUV. Sporting a starting price tag of 145,000 dollars in the U.S., this 631-horsepower three-row SUV can rocket from 0-60 mph in just 3.9 seconds and tops out at an electronically-limited 180 mph!
Even if the BMW X8 comes to fruition, it would have to outperform the Alpina and at least be as quick as the XM. Furthermore, BMW already has around 8 SUV models in its line-up here in America. This begs the question, is there really room or need for yet another go-fast ‘Sports Activity Vehicle’ at this end of the market? While it is an extremely-popular segment, there just might not be enough demand from prospective customers for BMW to seriously consider an all-new SUV (like the rumored X8) in the near future.
Featured image: BMW SUV illustration from 2021 by S.Korean designer Kyuseo Choi