BMW M is at an interesting point at the moment. The famous performance sub-division of BMW was once known for high-precision vehicles that were the performance pinnacle of their respective classes. However, most BMW M cars have become bigger, heavier and more luxurious than ever before, taking away from that precision that the brand was once so well known for. There’s also the possibility of electrification in the future. But cars like the BMW M2 have given hope to M purists, as it focuses more on being a fun, agile track car than a luxury car with a ton of power.
Motor Trend recently spoke with BMW representatives about this very subject.
“Any M car has to be track eligible, and it has to do well on the track, especially the Nürburgring Nordschleife,” said BMW North America CEO Ludwig Willish. While this is mostly true of current BMW M cars, there are a few that buck that trend, such as the X5 M and X6 M. There’s also the recent success and popularity growth of ALPINA, the separate company that builds highly-upgraded BMWs but sold alongside BMWs at dealerships with full BMW warranties. Many ALPINAs are preferred over their BMW M counterparts by a lot of enthusiasts. However, van Meel is adamant that both ALPINA and BMW M have to very different goals and do not compete with each other but compliment each other.
“We are repeatedly asked whether M and ALPINA are competitors,” said Frank van Meel, head of BMW M. “We regard ALPINA as a strategic partner and a complementation of our portfolio. While M models have a clear orientation toward dynamics, agility, and precision coupled with day-to-day suitability, an ALPINA is an automobile for a very specific group of customers. The focus is on exclusiveness, individualization, and long-distance travel comfort.”
The reason there’s confusion between ALPINA and BMW’s M Division as of late is that M models seem to have lost their performance edge. ALPINAs are, indeed, more about comfortable performance, being able to do 200 mph in serene luxury. But many modern BMW M cars can say the same, such as the M5 and M6, which are big, heavy, comfortable and luxurious. However, van Meel claims that the new M5 will no deter from the mission of M.
During this meet, Motor Trend was given a look at the upcoming BMW M5, though signed an NDA that permits them from speaking about it, and said that it will be “a beast”. And, according to van Meel, there was “no blinking” when designing the M5’s goal of performance. So while BMW’s famous M Division seemed to have lost its way for a little while, BMW and van Meel seem to have put it headed back in the right direction.