BMW’s unveiling of the Vision Neue Klasse concept at the IAA Mobility in Munich was followed shortly by an official confirmation about an all-electric M3 being in the works. It’s slated to arrive in the latter half of the decade, possibly as early as 2027. It has already been assigned the “ZA0” codename, but how is it actually going to be called? It looks as though it won’t be named “M3” as the German luxury brand has other plans.
Speaking with Autocar, BMW sales chief Pieter Nota hinted there will be a new nomenclature to separate purely electric M cars from the gasoline models available today: “With Neue Klasse, we set benchmarks and we will certainly also have high-performance versions of those cars which we now call an M3 or M4. M is also going electric, which we see with the success of the i4 M50 and the i7 M70. So M remains at the core of the brands into the electric future. These M products have a great halo effect for the brand, which is aspirational.”
In hindsight, that doesn’t come as a big surprise considering the arrival of a Neue Klasse-based M3 won’t spell the end for the inline-six model, at least not right away. BMW M boss Frank van Meel has already revealed the ICE and EV models will coexist for an unspecified amount of time. In late 2021, former M top brass Markus Flasch revealed the plan is to keep the inline-six and V8 engines in production until at least the end of the decade.
BMW won’t have any full-fat M electric cars before Neue Klasse as today’s M-branded EVs are lesser M Performance models: i4 M50, i5 M60, and i7 M70. In 2022 and the first half of 2023, the i4 M50 was the best-selling product from the BMW M division, which gives the company confidence that its NE-based sporty electric cars will be a success.
Future M models won’t share any parts with existing models as BMW has said the Neue Klasse is an all-new development without even a single component carried over from CLAR-based vehicles. An M3-like sedan will lead the electric performance efforts, but we’re hearing there will also be a more practical Touring model internally known as the ZA1. These could be joined by fully fledged M versions of the iX3 and iX4, codenamed ZA5 and ZA7, respectively.