In few other places in the world do past and present merge as harmoniously as in Palm Springs. The only thing missing now is the future. But that’s what the BMW XM is for.
Forget Paris. The supposed City of Love, aside from too many clichés, is simply noisy and hectic. If love really is to be found in the air, then certainly not in a place that seems to be made only of stone and steel. No, it needs to be another place, a place that is freer, more easy-going and romantic in a very typical way. Better yet: sublime. And there’s no place in the world that combines all these qualities more perfectly than Palm Springs.
The great thing about Palm Springs, as anyone who has ever been there will tell you, is that it has a bad reputation. Blame it on the big Hollywood names of the 1950s: Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Howard Hughes, Humphrey Bogart, Paul Newman, Doris Day and Marilyn Monroe all lived here. They all settled in the Coachella Valley because they were contractually bound to the major studios and were not allowed to travel more than a hundred miles or two hours from Hollywood while filming. That was the heyday of Palms, as locals still call it today. And it was the beginning of the end. Because more and more people followed the stars there, mostly older people. By the late seventies, the city had aged so much it was considered a retiree’s paradise. A sort of luxury version of anti-gentrification. And somehow, with the young people staying away, this city of stars held its breath and stood still in time.
We can still see the aftermath of this today as we cruise gently and quietly through Palm Springs with the BMW XM in hybrid mode. Shielded from the first hot spring days, a quick glance outside reveals just how much mid-century modern architecture still dominates here. Newer buildings are few and far between. Most of the houses look as if Frank Sinatra, Clark Gable or Greta Garbo might actually step out of the door at any moment to fetch the newspaper from the driveway.
So isn’t it strange to drive through such a retro town in a car as modern as the new BMW XM? A town whose only truly (still) significant feature is the Coachella Festival (which, paradoxically, is again drawing Hollywood celebrities to town)? Not at all. After all, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival stands for extravagance, inspiration, innovation and an awareness of the socio-ecological challenges of our time. So no wonder BMW celebrated the launch of its first high-performance electrified vehicle at the festival last April. The two have a lot in common.
The XM also has a lot in common with the stars of yesteryear: unmistakably charismatic and, thanks to the plug-in hybrid technology, soft-spoken in demeanor. Just like Dean Martin and friends, who left noisy Los Angeles for the California desert back in the day. And that’s exactly what you get inside BMW’s flagship SUV. Sitting in the vintage leather seats, you have the world to yourself – without feeling like you’re cut off from it.
But: We’re in Palm Springs, and even if it is hard to leave the comfortable M lounge seats in the BMW XM, you simply have to get out of the car and wander through the streets to experience what is denied you in Paris. Savor the tranquility, the quiet romance of a bygone era whose magic you can still feel today. Yes, each beginning bears a special magic. But in Palm Springs, the magic is still there. Love is in the air. You can feel it. Not obtrusive, but ever-present.
You stroll past houses from the 1940s to the 1970s, discover the architecture of Albert Frey, Richard Neutra – and feel right at home.
What Palm Springs lacks in a positive sense is the massive, the monumental. Palm Springs is subtle, delicate, light. And as you return to the XM, which actually shared the stage with the stars at Coachella 2023, you recognize the same theme in the vehicle itself. Undeniably, this SUV is chunky and massive. But only at first glance. As in real life, the subtle and delicate only reveals itself to those who take a closer look: the illumination of the kidney grille at the front, the gold-colored contouring, the laser-etched logos in the rear window. In this way, the car is like the city itself: contradictory in a good way. A California dream from which, fortunately, you never fully awaken. Los Angeles is bright and loud, the city here to the east is kept in pastel colors, everything is dialed down a notch. Even if you could, you wouldn’t want to drive along the avenues, roads and drives in combustion mode. A quiet, considerate presence is called for. You don’t want to wake Palm Springs up. It’s better to let it slumber on. We glide smoothly through the mostly straight streets of the city, avoiding the northwest, where the airport is. It’s too noisy, too new there. Before our journey in the BMW XM comes to an end, we take it for another spin. Open the windows and almost wish we could just hold our breath like the city itself once did.
Text: Martin Trockner for ramp
Photos: Tobias Holzweiler
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