BMWBLOG had the pleasure of interviewing Christine Fleischer who is BMW M & Individual Area Manager for North & South America. Christine’s intensity and enthusiasm while speaking about M cars was invigorating and it was exciting to hear her speak about the 1M and her time behind the wheel.
Christine also dove into a few technical details with us, and while the following interview was predominately focused on the new 1M – Christine gave us a great view of what the M brand stands for today. She was endearingly coined the “M Chick” by inner circles and after spending time with her – we understand why.
Christine’s great sense of humor and outgoing personality made for a brilliant interview – you can listen to our interview live from the Toronto show floor by clicking on the audio clip at the bottom of this page.
Christine: we’re here in front of the BMW 1M car, which is new to Canada. Can you tell us a little bit about the 1M and what it means to Canadian drivers?
I think it perfectly fits Canadian drivers because Canadian drivers, as far as I know them in terms of M, they love driving and they really enjoy the package that BMW is always offering on an M car. And I think they’re going to love it; the 1M feels like a Z4 M Coupe when you drive it. It is very agile, very compact, very quick. It is a turbocharged engine, however we quite heavily modified the engine so you can have that constant feeling and performance that you expect from an M car. And it’s a lot of fun because it has a manual transmission. It really goes back to those people who love the E30 and E36 and really like to work the car. Compared to an M3 it’s different, it feels different as well but that’s why we meant to do it. It’s just a great driving vehicle.
The decision to offer a manual only transmission, can you explain a little bit about why that decision was made instead of offering either a manual or a dual clutch, or both as an option?
We wanted to keep it not just simple in terms of you know, not making it complicated but go back to the roots of M again. At that time it was just you and the car: which is basically the engine and transmission and a set of tires.
And a limited-slip differential, don’t forget the LSD! [laughs]
Yeah, the differential is pretty good and it actually helps you on snow. [laughs] So that’s why we just wanted to keep it, you know, puristic. The manual fits perfectly with the engine and the suspension and it really gives you the feeling of you being in full control of your car because the car is so compact. It’s like really you’re really driving it. If you compared it with an M3: this is more made for race track ability and use so you need that quick shifting and you need to have that instantaneous response and you don’t want to take off your hands while you’re driving around the corners while you’re driving at 300km/h. So, that’s why the M3 is a little bit different but that car [BMW 1M] is so much more fun and it reminds us very strongly of the Z4 M Coupe.
In regards to the handling characteristics, you mentioned it belongs on the racetrack and that’s where we love to spend most of our time. Could you describe the handling at the limit – is it a very neutral car? It still has a little bit of under steer dialed in, I’m sure, but can you describe the handling a little bit? Have you driven it?
Now you’re going to love that, I think. Yes, I’ve actually even driven it against an M3 on the racetrack. [laughs] Just to make sure to be able to answer your questions properly!
Ok, and what were your findings?
It is a turbo charged engine so that means you have a lot of torque and a lot of revs which is different to the M3; so when you’re starting off it’s like a kick when you drive it. The suspension is taken over from the M3 competition package, so it is meant for more weight – which is good on that 1M because the 1M obviously weighs less, so you have less weight on the front axle. Which allows you that when you’re going, especially when you’re going in the corner and you want to get corner speed, the range before you understeer is longer compared to the M3.
So it has less understeer effectively?
Yes, less understeer. I mean, you can do a lot of under and oversteer whenever you want but yes, it is less. The wheelbase is shorter than on the M3, it is 10 cm shorter. The weight distribution is nearly perfect 50:50. Because there is less weight on the 1M – the suspension which is, you know, the perfect track suspension is working perfectly with a car that is so much lighter than the M3. It’s a great way of driving at high speed around the corner. When you’re going even 250 km/h and you want to go quicker or faster you can just put your foot on the throttle and you’re going to have instant response – it’s pretty amazing.
Sounds good. The engine you mentioned is of course the turbocharged inline-6 N54 twin turbo. Being turbocharged, how was M able to get around the lag and throttle response such that it has that immediacy?
Can’t tell you. [laughs]
Oh, it’s a secret? [laughs]
It’s a secret. We did change something in the cylinder with regards to the injection. We did change the amount and the sequence of how we want to do that [fuel injection].
Okay, because in the S63 B44 X5M and X6M cars they have the new proprietary cross-cylinder bank manifold which is the magic of that engine that it’s so immediate in the throttle response even though it’s turbocharged, but there’s no such manifold on this car.
No we don’t have that. We didn’t need it.
Wow, that’s a bold statement! [laughs]
We didn’t need it! [laughs]
We can’t wait to confirm that on the racetrack.
What you need in a turbocharged engine is just a lot of heat to keep the scrolls rolling. We had to find someway to get that thing heated up. It’s not necessarily about finding the right way of finding the exhaust and put it in the right shape like on the X5M and X6M, that’s why we had the cross-cylinder bank exhaust system. On that car we changed the injection a little bit and that’s why you have a constant heat on the scrolls. Even if you are standing in traffic or at the traffic light, compared to the regular N55 it’s still spooling. So we made sure that it’s the M feeling when you’re driving it.
Excellent. And nothing specific about the turbos themselves have been changed?
They’re the same as on the N54?
We’ve change and tuned the engine – we have a target so it has to feel like an M performance vehicle. However we achieve it, for us it’s just a matter of when we’re achieving it and in what manner.
I’m going to change gears a little bit if you don’t mind and ask a few questions about you and your history with BMW in Germany. How long have you been with the company?
I’ve been with BMW since 2004 and in product management at first. I dealt with BMW Individual mostly so I did a lot of special vehicles like the Neiman Markus M6 – that was one of my products and then I started over in sales and now I’m head of sales for the Americas for M and Individual. I really love my job. But I studied to become a teacher, so I don’t have the typical business background.
Right, but I love cars.
What do you do in your spare time when you’re not working for BMW?
I don’t really have spare time!
That’s the answer we get from most executives.
There you go. [laughs]
Thank you so much Christine, it has been a pleasure interviewing you for BMWBLOG and we hope to meet up again soon.
It was a pleasure, thank you very much as well!
Please enjoy our live interview by listening below!