Well-connected journalist Greg Kable reports for Autocar on a new M Performance model based on the next-generation 1 Series, the sedan version rather than the coupe.
The compact four-door aims to compete against the upcoming Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG and Audi S3 sedan and somewhat expected, it would be powered by a highly tuned-up 2.0-liter turbo engine with at least 300 horsepower.
“We are actively considering it,” said a high-ranking BMW insider for Autocar. “Do we think there is a potential market? Yes, and it is likely to grow rapidly. If we had the capacity, we would already be well down the road [to production] by now.”
BMW conducted market studies which indicate that compact performance sedans are set for high and fast growth, especially in large markets such as North America and China. With both the S3 sedan and CLA45 AMG due to arrive before the end of next year, BMW officials are keen to fast-track the new model, possibly with contracted engineering, according to sources within automotive component supplier ranks.
The M Performance Automobile version of the 1 Series Sedan builds atop the success of the limited 1M Coupe which to-date is labeled as one of the most M cars produced in a long time, and the M135i Hatchback.
“There has been a wholesale shift in the market,” said a source for Autocar. “Our traditional M models — the M3 and M5 — have become a good deal larger, a lot more powerful, better equipped and naturally more expensive over the years. They still sell in solid numbers, but it is time to concentrate on the more affordable end of the performance range.”
But the following question arises: with the next-generation 1 Series using a front-wheel drive architecture, will BMW offer for the first time an M model that moves away from the rear-wheel drive platform?
Autocar says that the Bavarians are mulling over two disparate strategies.
Upcoming 2 Series RWD platform to be used for 1er Sedan
Next year, BMW will unveil the 2 Series family, two rear-wheel drive models, coupe and cabrio, which will have a slightly longer rear overhang than the 1 Series hatchbacks. The one strategy calls for the use of this platform for the 1 Series sedan and possibly an entry-level Touring model.
The unspeakable: A FWD M-tuned automobile
The second strategy involves BMW’s new front-wheel drive platform revealed at the Paris motor show in September as a possible basis for the 1 Series sedan. The company already plans to offer an M235i coupe model and they see potential in a sedan variant as well.
The front-wheel drive platform has been conceived around a transverse engine layout and offers interior packaging advantages over the rear-wheel drive. The FWD setup was engineered to take a four-wheel drive as well.
Furthermore, BMW sources suggest that the added processes involved in producing the rear-drive structure make it up to 15 per cent more expensive than the new front-drive platform. But looking at this from a different angle, the rear-wheel drive one shares components with the 3 Series which could lead to reduced costs.
Regardless which option is chosen, the engine of choice will stay the same: 2.0 liter twin-scroll turbocharged with fully variable valve timing, lightweight internals and piezo-guided direct fuel injection. BMW engineers aim to match the latest version of Audi’s turbocharged 296bhp 2.0-litre ‘EA888’ engine and AMG’s similarly configured 349bhp ‘M132’ powerplant.
The decision to go with four-cylinder power provides a sufficient gap in the line-up to the sixth-generation M3, which is set to switch from its existing naturally aspirated 4.0-litre V8 to a turbocharged 3.0-litre straight six.
If greenlighted for production, the MPA 1 Series sedan will arrive in 2015.