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Thursday, December 8, 2022

BMW Dune Taxi looks like it’s ready to race in Extreme E

We know its name but not its purpose. BMW Middle East uploaded a five-minute video filmed around Liwa, Abu Dhabi, featuring a battery-electric rig called the “Dune Taxi.” The tagline is “When xDrive meets BMW M,” an odd play when xDrive first hooked up with M on the X5 M and X6 M crossovers 13 years ago, cementing their dalliance on the sedan side in 2017 with the xDrive-only M5. The Dune Taxi gets plenty of AWD costars from M branch, though, including the X6 M Competition, an iX M60 making some weirdly ICE-flavored noises, and the Concept XM, none of which explains what we’re meant to expect from all of this.

Top Gear explained that desert’s Empty Quarter where shooting takes place isn’t far from the start of next year’s Dakar Rally. However, the Dune Taxi looks just like the Odyssey 21 spec electric buggy used in Extreme E, but with a BMW grille and a couple of vents on the rear fenders. Both Audi and BMW were fixtures in the Formula E single-seater series until last year. Audi left to compete in the Dakar Rally with its series-hybrid RS Q E-Tron in early 2022, recently updated to the RS Q E-Tron S2. Based on the Dune Taxi’s shape, what appears to be the lack of a spare wheel, and the word “Cosowrth” in the center stack, we suspect BMW is headed to the other global electric off-road racing event. In fact, the Cosworth connection seems to provide the proof of Extreme E involvement. The engineering and motorsports firm says in a post on its Facebook page that the Odyssey 21 is “equipped with our electronics solutions from control to display.” A picture of that display on Facebook matches a brief glimpse of the display in the Dune Taxi.

Other supporting evidence comes in power ratings of 536 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque, a tad less than the Odyssey 21’s official 550 hp but a skosh more than its 679 lb-ft. The Dune Taxi body is made from the same natural fiber-reinforced polymer (NFRP) with cutouts for gullwing doors and a trim roof scoop. The suspension can run through 15.7 inches of wheel travel, a half-inch more than found on the Odyssey 21. And the Tal Moreeb sand dune that the Dune Taxi climbs for its rallying finale ascends at an incline of 130%, the same skyward angle the Extreme E series says the Odyssey 21 is designed to max out on. 

Not forgetting the other stars in the vid, Lebanese rally ace Abdo Feghali is at the wheel of the Dune Taxi, his fellow Red Bull Driftbrothers are co-conspirators in the other BMW vehicles, and American actress Madelyn Cline plays navigator, apparently aiming to get the wildest taxi ride from a bus stop to the secret garage where an XM is kept.    

Back to racing, there are two races left in this year’s Extreme E Series, the Copper X-Prix in Antofagasta, Chile on September 24 and 25 and the Energy X-Prix in Punta del Este, Uruguay November 26 and 27. It’s possible we’ll see the Dune Taxi make a cameo in South America then, or it could get a mention during the debut of the XM SUV on September 27.

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