Is BMW coming after Audi's Dakar Rally win?
BMW Middle East is up to something. It recently posted a video starring Madelyn Cline and an electric racing buggy with the words "Dune Taxi" on its rear. The video is fairly trippy, as it squeezes a significant amount of action into roughly five minutes.
The star of the show is the Dune Taxi, which is introduced as an "electric prototype," but of what exactly? Prototype suggests the testing of an idea or concept to see whether it would work. If this is BMW's idea of conquering the empty quarter, this video certainly counts as proof of concept.
There's only one glaring problem. The desert is devoid of most things, including EV chargers.
BMW hasn't made any official announcements yet, so there are no technical details. If we had to guess, the Dune Taxi likely has an onboard generator powered by a gas or diesel engine. Audi uses a similar system in its RS Q e-tron E2 Dakar Rally buggy. BMW also used a similar system to extend the range of its i3.
Is BMW thinking of entering the infamous Dakar Rally? Audi doesn't have any EV rivals at the moment, and completing the world's toughest off-road race is an excellent way to convince people your battery tech is good enough for a trip to the mall...
The car does seem to be perfectly prepped for the Dakar. It has a lightweight Natural Fiber Reinforced Polymer body shell and 15.7 inches of wheel travel. The dual motor setup produces 536 horsepower and 738 lb-ft of torque. If these figures sound familiar, it's because they are.
The BMW iX M60 produces 532 hp and 749 lb-ft, which also happens to make a cameo in the video. Red Bull's famous Driftbrothers also make an appearance in two X6Ms. As you watch the video, you slowly realize what BMW is up to. Each car enters the picture, boasting a feature that the Dune Taxi likely uses. With the X6M, BMW chose to focus on the M xDrive Active M Differential. It's basically the best of the various BMW departments, including M and i.
The Dune Taxi certainly seems like it would be a fierce rival in the Dakar. Look at how it tackles the steep 130-degree slope near the end with little run-up. This video perfectly illustrates why electricity works so beautifully with off-roading.
Do we think BMW is entering the Dakar Rally? Nope.
The video was filmed in Abu Dhabi, widely known for not hosting the Dakar Rally. Come to think of it, neither is Senegal, where the city of Dakar is located. The Paris-Dakar Rally hasn't been near Africa for more than a decade. From 2009 to 2019, it was hosted in South America. These days it's hosted in Saudi Arabia.
Secondly, BMW is investing heavily in Le Mans, and it technically already participates in the Dakar. Mini ALL4 Racing and the Mini John Cooper Works Buggy have won the Dakar Rally six times between the two of them. Why do burnouts on Mini's turf?
Why build the Dune Taxi, then? One theory is an Extreme E entry, but there's another possibility to consider. That dune near the end is quite famous. It's the Nurburgring of Dunes, and the Green Hell has a taxi. Why shouldn't this dune have one as well?