Fundamental changes are coming to the design ethos.
BMW M has been enjoying enormous success despite its decision to change what this skunkworks performance decision stands for by creating its first standalone car in decades, only for it to be an SUV. If that's not frustrating enough, the design cues are a slap in the face of the brand's true standalone M car. Worse still, BMW has now revealed its luxury range-toppers in the forms of the X7 and 7 Series, and although "full" M versions aren't happening for the moment, the M Performance-fettled models get M badges, M engines, M brakes, and now even quad-exit exhaust tips, as first seen on the E86 M Roadster, E85 M Coupe, E39 M5, and E46 M3. Is this a special circumstance just for high-end M Performance models, or is it becoming a rule?
We wondered as much when we saw spy shots of the refreshed F40 BMW M135i, also sporting a quartet of exhaust tips. Following an interview with BMW head of design Domagoj Dukec at the launch of the new 7 Series and i7, BMW Blog reports that this will indeed be a new defining feature of M-lite models: "All the M Performance models will now have four exhaust pipes," said the executive. "You will also see this on the [new] X1 and all the upcoming [M Performance] cars. But not round [pipes] because it's not the high-performance [variant]. It will be a little different, more styled, and for M [cars] we will have different ones."
In our minds, this suggests that the abovementioned M135i (or M140i) may indeed be a range-topping 1 Series with proper M DNA, as this has round exhaust tips. However, it could also mean that M cars will get the XM's closely stacked vertical tips going forward.
So M-enhanced models will get more stylized, angular quad tips smoothly integrated into the rear fascia while full-fat M cars seem to be retaining round tips. That being said, the idea of what the ultimate M version of a car means aesthetically is changing, as M Performance-upgraded full M cars are now getting a triangular exhaust layout as seen on the M3 and M4 and the upcoming M2. When Dukec said that M cars will have "different ones," he could also have been suggesting that these stacked exhaust tips may be a way of dipping a toe into the water to gauge customer reactions. If a lot of buyers spec the M Performance exhaust, BMW may decide to make it a regular design feature, even without optional upgrades.
Times are changing, but with the quad-exit exhaust being a mainstay of M cars for more than two decades, it's time for the division to reinvent itself. You may not like it, but it's the nature of evolution. Soon enough, exhaust tips won't even feature anyway.