Brand bosses tell us it's just a coincidence but one they're quite happy about.
We can't be the only automotive enthusiasts to have noticed it: BMW is using old engine designations for new electric powertrains. We first caught wind of it through trademark filings, wondering whether the brand was merely keeping the old name alive or trying to do something new. The answer, it turned out, was the latter.
Now, you can buy an electric BMW i4 with the M50 powertrain and an iX with the M60, and you'll eventually be able to buy an i7 M70 as a range-topper. Every one of those designations has been used by the BMW brand before, which led us to wonder: Was BMW purposefully reusing old designations on new models? Last week, we got our answer from BMW M's Timo Resch.
Speaking to CarBuzz at the 2022 BMW M Festival at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit in South Africa, Resch told us that the use of those names for electric powertrains was purely coincidental. "It's simply a logical way for customers to understand the hierarchy," he said. But the massive grin on his face told another tale.
While he admitted it was coincidental, he said it had not escaped the engineers back in Germany and that it's a little Easter egg of sorts they are quite happy to have in modern BMWs.
Those names are remarkably apt for their places in the current hierarchy, as any BMW anorak will easily be able to rattle off the relevance of each of those engines historically.
The M70 is perhaps the most pertinent as of this year, as it was the code for BMW's first production V12 engine, which went into the 750i and the epic BMW 850CSi. The BMW V12 has officially ceased production as of July this year, so an M70 designation arriving next year in the i7 lineup seems like serendipity, as it will effectively take over the role of a range-topping 7 Series, which has historically been a V12 since 1987.
The M60 engine - which arrived in 1992 as BMW's first V8 in more than a quarter of a century - was equally as important in the brand's upper-echelon models like the 5 and 7 Series. Available as either a 3.0- or 4.0-liter V8, it found use in the E34-generation 530i and the E32- and E38-generation 7 Series.
Currently found in the iX (the i7 gets the xDrive60 denomination), where it represents a 610-horsepower dual-motor electric powertrain, the M60 designation has also been rumored to feature on the upcoming all-electric BMW i5 sedan.
As for the M50 - the original engine family bearing that designation was used in the E34 5 Series and E36 3 Series, while its modern counterpart features as the range-topper of the i4 Gran Coupe, itself a spin-off of the 3 Series family.
We're not saying that using historical names is any way to make the switch to electrification a less-bitter pill to swallow, but we couldn't let such happenstance manifest without finding out whether it was done on purpose or not.
File this one under useless knowledge you'll likely never need again but find cool anyway.