BMW M boss Fran van Meel would love to see electrified M cars in the future.
BMW's Oliver Zipse pulls no punches when it comes to the fast-approaching electric era. While he believes an ICE ban would be premature, the outspoken CEO has said the company will cater to everyone's needs. This is evidenced by a vast lineup, comprised of combustion-engined vehicles, PHEVs, and EVs. There's even a hydrogen-powered SUV waiting in the wings. But what about M cars?
Well, according to BMW M CEO Frank van Meel, electrified M cars are coming. He told Autocar that the iconic M3 may head down the battery-powered route. "Maybe it will go electric - but if it does, it will always be an M3. Whatever the powertrain, you should always be able to drive our cars and know they are M cars," he said.
This may cause lightheadedness among the BMW community, but van Meel notes the M3 has always been about evolution. "Every time we change the story of the engine, from four-cylinder to six-cylinder to eight-cylinder to six-cylinder and a turbocharger, the story continues."
Sure, the M3 derives plenty of character from its powerplant, but the performance car cemented its reputation on sharp handling and spirited dynamic characteristics. "If we bring [electric M cars], they will be so groundbreaking you will say: 'This is crazy. I didn't see that coming.'" With the Taycan, Porsche showed us electric power and fun aren't mutually exclusive.
Admittedly, not all BMW M customers are on board with this proposal. "Some say that [they're out] if we don't do V8s. But that's okay: I respect that," noted van Meel. But, according to the BMW M boss, most customers don't care - they just want an M car. "We've just been talking to customers and the feedback is that 90-95% don't care what direction we take [with the] powertrain."
BMW M is expected to enhance the performance EV as a concept. This will be done by keeping vehicle weight low and maintaining handling characteristics. "Electric cars do have some advantages. You can take some of the sound insulation out, for instance, and having the weight of the battery so low is interesting for engineers," added van Meel.
"We just need to keep investing in lightweight technology. We already do a lot of carbon."
We don't expect this to happen immediately, though. Now that the G20 generation is expected to stick around until 2027, the M3 will most likely transition to electric power in the 2030s. As far as electrification goes, BMW will start slowly.
The upcoming BMW XM - perhaps the most controversial M car yet - will employ a V8 engine paired with an electric motor. It should be an incredibly quick SUV with combined outputs of 750 horsepower and 737 lb-ft of torque. This engine will also be used in the upcoming M5 replacement.
"What the engineers really like is that once you get electrified components in your drivetrain, the control of your torque and horsepower is much better, faster, and easier than a combustion engine - especially in racing," added van Meel. However, for dyed-in-the-wool BMW enthusiasts, there's still plenty to look forward to. The all-new M2 will hit the scene shortly, with the option of a manual gearbox and, potentially, all-wheel drive.