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Car and Driver: BMW Confirms X7, Will Expand M, M Performance Vehicle Ranges


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2017 BMW X7 (artist's rendering)

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It might come as difficult news to fans of the “old BMW,” or perhaps it’s something thought to be inevitable for some time now: BMW has confirmed plans to build a three-row X7 crossover. Not only that, but in the same announcement, BMW strongly hinted that its intended expansion of its portfolio of high-performance M-badged cars and medium-performance M Performance models would include—gasp!—yet more crossovers. Welcome to the new BMW.
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The X7 shouldn’t be as concerning to brand die-hards as the apparent focus on slapping the M treatment on more SUVs, however. A three-row BMW likely will rake in cash for the company, given how hot the luxury large SUV market is. We’ve also assumed such a model was happening for a while, even detailing what to expect from it. The X7 had also previously been (vaguely) confirmed at an earlier date.

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So on to the M news. In its own words, BMW plans “a further expansion of the M product range,” an innocuous statement that omits the fact that, now that the M2 has been introduced, the only non-crossover left in BMW’s lineup without an M version is the 7-series. Any expansion, then, could include an ever-elusive M7 model—but most likely it will also involve M-badged crossovers beyond today’s X5 M and X6 M.

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That most-likely crossover scenario for M GmbH becomes a sure thing when the discussion pivots to BMW’s M Performance lineup. These cars are positioned between regular BMWs and full-blown M rides, and BMW says it “intends to expand its range of powerful M Performance models within the higher-volume segments.” These days, high-volume segments is code for “crossovers,” and again, BMW has long since fleshed out its high-volume car models (the 2-, 3-, and 4-series) with M Performance variants, leaving mostly tall pseudo-SUVs in BMW’s sights. The strategy is already underway—see the new X4 M40i.

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The simple truth is that M Performance and M-badged BMWs sell for higher prices, and with Mercedes-Benz’s addition of high-performance AMG variants to more and more of its models, BMW has to play this game. Mercedes also had been turning out more and more AMG Sport versions, its equivalent of BMW’s M Performance cars, until giving up that naming scheme and folding those cars under the AMG umbrella—and continuing to build more and more, including crossover variants. Nowhere is this tit-for-tat more visible than the curious high-performance coupe/SUV battle BMW and Benz have locked themselves into. Again, BMW seems to feel the need to compete with Mercedes on every level. Whether this constitutes a dilution of the M brand or a profitable expansion of it remains to be seen, but BMW’s going to find out one way or another.

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