Boss of BMW’s famous M Division, Frank van Meel, is no stranger to being, well, frank. While there will always be information he cannot divulge, he’s never been afraid to say it like it is. It’s refreshing, actually. So when Car Magazine spoke with van Meel about the future of the M Division and some of its upcoming products, he didn’t hold back. Which is nice because we now get some good info out of it.
The discussion started out about the upcoming BMW M8, as this happened at the BMW M Festival where the M8 Prototype was launched. However, van Meel was necessarily mum on the subject.
‘The M8 will launch a little bit later than the regular 8-series. We began work on the project a couple of years ago. We always have to watch that not too much M Division goes into the base car – because not all customers will want to drive like an M8. I think the M8 will set a new benchmark for luxury and performance. That benchmark includes everything you can see on the market now.” So BMW has had its plans for the 8 Series and M8 for some time now. Makes sense why they just started showing us the long-hidden original M8 within the past couple of years. Well played, BMW.
There will also be an expanded lineup of M Performance cars in the future. According to van Meel, there are still quite a lot of cars that don’t offer such a model, so they need to be made. “In terms of segments not yet explored, in the X3 and X4 we have M Performance versions. We have a lot other segments, 3-series, 4-series for example, where we don’t have M Performance vehicles.”
But more exciting than more cars getting M Performance models is the fact that there will be more ‘CS’ models in the future. “It’s logical to do [CS versions] for other cars. It doesn’t mean we’re going to do it for every one. But yes, it’s possible we will arrange for all of these. The M3 and M4 – it’s iconic – we put our focus [on that car] first, with the M4 CS between the Competition pack and the brand-shaper [the M4 GTS]. The M4 CS is not a limited series, just limited by production capacity. When we started the project we knew that it was going to be sold out anyway.” The brand-new BMW M4 CS is probably the best variant of the M3/M4 and that includes the mighty M4 GTS. The M4 CS is just so perfectly balanced between sporty aggression and everyday driving that it may be the best M3/M4 in ages. So to hear that more M cars will get the ‘CS’ treatment is good news. We know that an M2 CS is already in the works and we’re beyond excited, given how well it worked out for the M4. BMW will also increase production volume on the M2, so expect not only more variants like the CS but more supply.
Van Meel also notes that the new F90-gen BMW M5 was planned to be all-wheel drive for years, now. “I remember talking to journalists at the Detroit motor show, and saying to them “600Nm and 600bhp only on the rear wheels – that’s not fun.” I had a lot of comments on the internet – “how could you say that!” But we knew, because we had a prototype [in testing], you can [still] always drive like a rear-wheel-drive car – but you have the advantage of the [driven] front axle when the rear is [over-] rotating.”
We speculated that the upcoming BMW X3 M could get a variant of the M5’s xDrive all-wheel drive system, which allows the driver to vary the torque split between the two axles. It even allows for the front axle to be completely disengaged, leaving it 100 percent rear-wheel drive. Now that the technology exists, it will make its way to more M cars. Though, not all. “Just because we have the technology, it does not mean that it should automatically be applied to all models. Of course it is a possibility, because we have this technology, but it does not mean we will apply it because we can. We have a clear philosophy when we bring in any new technology – it must be related to [handling] precision. I haven’t driven the new [all-wheel-drive] AMG E63 yet. I asked Tobias [Moers, head of AMG] yesterday if he had one I could borrow, but it is too early [for a car to be available].”
Also, it seems as if BMW M’s feud with AMG is a bit angrier among fans than it is companies. “I think AMG’s approach is very similar to our philosophy. Very precise steering with very good response is very important to us.” said senior engineer at BMW M Dirk Haecker.[Source: Car Magazine]