BMW is testing a new, high-performance flagship SUV, and what little camouflage is remaining leaves very little to the imagination.

    The BMW X8 M, which could also be badged XM per an earlier trademark filing (and perhaps to Citroen’s chagrin), is a new large SUV that isn’t expected to have a non-M counterpart.

    That would make it the M Division’s first bespoke product since the mid-engined 1978-81 M1 sports coupe.

    It’ll most likely debut sometime later in 2021 – possibly later this month – before its official launch in 2022.

    The boss of BMW M, Markus Flasch, told Auto motor und sport earlier this month the division would soon preview an electrified concept and confirmed a standalone BMW M production vehicle was coming.

    As the stickers and charging port indicate, the X8 M features a plug-in hybrid powertrain.

    Reports from BMW Blog suggest the X8 will be offered in two variants: a 460kW M version and an M Competition, with a total system output of 552kW from its twin-turbocharged V8 engine and plug-in hybrid powertrain.

    That would make the X8 M Competition the first plug-in hybrid model to wear the mighty ‘M’ badge.

    The camouflage is disorienting, but like a magic eye puzzle you can make out an object: in this case, a large crossover with a rakish roofline and a belt line that angles sharply upwards at the rear doors.

    Though previous spy photos have shown the X8 to be as large as a three-row X7, it’s expected the X8 M will have only a two-row layout with either four or five seats.

    While it doesn’t appear to have a traditional coupe crossover-style silhouette like an X6, it’s certainly more rakish than the boxy X7.

    It does seem like the X8 M will feature — just like the recently spied X7 facelift — a split headlight arrangement.

    Unlike many other new BMWs, the X8 M appears to have conventional instead of flush door handles.

    Should it be available exclusively in M variants, that would make the X8 M an analogue to the BMW iX.

    Though derived from the same CLAR architecture as various other BMW products, the iX doesn’t have a corresponding internal combustion-powered variant and is, following the demise of the i8, a flagship product for BMW’s electric i line.

    William Stopford

    William Stopford is an automotive journalist based in Brisbane, Australia. William is a Business/Journalism graduate from the Queensland University of Technology who loves to travel, briefly lived in the US, and has a particular interest in the American car industry.

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