BMW might have made some controversial design decisions in recent years but its strategy regarding engines has been almost flawless. Almost because the V12 is gone. While AMG has halved the C63’s cylinder count resulting in a tiny four-banger and is preparing to downsize E63’s V8 as well, the M division is sticking to its inline-six and V8. In an interview with the Australian magazine Drive, the mayor of M town ruled out downsizing.
Frank van Meel reiterated the next-generation M5 coming in 2024 is still going to have eight cylinders, supplemented by an electric motor. The M CEO confirmed the super sedan will inherit the PHEV V8 setup from the XM, and the engineers are going to fit this electrified setup inside the M5 Touring as well. The man in charge of the performance division explained a new powertrain is always being developed for multiple cars.
BMW can keep the inline-six and V8 engines alive despite increasingly stricter emissions regulations by adding a hybrid component. What comes after that? Frank van Meel said the next logical step will be purely electric M cars instead of electrifying combustion engines that have a smaller displacement. However, he went on to say the technology for a full-fat M electric model is not ready yet. He admitted the i4 M50 – the M division’s best-selling car in 2022 and the first half of 2023 – is “not a high-performance car.”
For an EV to earn the desirable M badge, the M CEO said it would have to complete one or two laps of the Nürburgring at full throttle. As it stands, hitting speeds of over 155 mph (250 km/h) during a hot lap “won’t get [you] any much further” in terms of the range provided by the battery pack. Consequently, van Meel says that poses a restriction for the current crop of sporty EVs.
Aside from sufficient range, another criterion that a zero-emission M car must meet is to offer a continuous power output for as long as possible rather than just 10 seconds or a minute.
The first true M car with an all-electric setup will be an M3-sized sports sedan. The fact that it’s in the planning stages has already been officially confirmed by the firm’s head of development. As to when it’s coming out, rumor has it BMW intends to launch the Neue Klasse-based performance EV around 2027. Despite a recent trademark filing, it won’t be called “iM3.” Based on our sources close to Munich, it allegedly carries the “ZA0” internal codename and is going to have somewhere in the region of 700 horsepower.