The BMW M2's heavy curb weight is just the beginning, says BMW M CEO Frank van Meel.
We now live in a world where the BMW M2 - the entry point to the full red-blooded M lineup and the most compact model the M division builds - weighs 3,814 lbs when equipped with the six-speed manual, making it almost as heavy as the larger M4 Coupe. Fresh on the heels of the M2's arrival, we got up close to the newcomer at the BMW M Festival in Kyalami, where BMW M CEO, Frank van Meel, confirmed our worst fears - the age of the lightweight M car is over, and cars from the Bavarian brand are only going to get heavier.
The answer came in response to a question posed by CarBuzz during a press conference when van Meel was asked if BMW would be able to counter the added weight of electrification in future M cars through the use of more carbon fiber.
"Well, of course, we're keeping up with efforts in lightweight technology," said van Meel, referring to the likes of the carbon fiber roof, which is available as an option for the first time on the M2 and is a staple of the M3 and M4 range. But his overall focus was grim, with a single statement summing things up: "Cars will get heavier in the future nonetheless."
That might be a dealbreaker, as a 3,800-lb M2 is already a step too far for the M division in the eyes of some fans. However, van Meel and the M engineers are looking at solutions to try and mitigate this and ensure future M cars live up to their lightweight heritage. "There's a lot of things we're working on right now to keep up that spirit," van Meel reiterates, and not all of them are related to carbon fiber, either. Alternative solutions are being investigated.
"Maybe in the future [components] may even [be] made out of other materials like in the M4 GT4, where we are now using natural materials instead of carbon fiber," he says.
Those natural materials he refers to are lightweight materials from Bcomp, a Swiss-based pioneer of natural composites made from flax and other fibers.
In the M4 GT4, Bcomp's ampliTex and powerRibs solutions are used for the hood, trunk lid, doors, and front and rear splitters and are not only a viable alternative to carbon fiber but are easier to produce and completely renewable. Carbon fiber, by contrast, is expensive and labor-intensive to produce on a mass scale.
Van Meel is adamant, however, that more than how much a vehicle weighs, the location of that mass is what is most important.
"What we're working on is the way we integrate our technology from our cars like battery packs, how they are attached to cars," he says. Specifically, van Meel references how "the configuration of batteries is to bring the weight, at least in the batteries that you've put into the cars, down," thereby lowering the center of gravity.
While a low center of gravity is a known benefit to EV battery packs and propulsion systems, other manufacturers like Porsche and Ferrari will package their batteries to imitate the weight balance of mid-engined sports cars. Whether BMW will do the same remains to be seen, but the company is already working on its first electric M car, with a quad-motor prototype doing the rounds at present with more than 1,000 horsepower, which should be plenty to compensate for any weight gains.
Before M goes electric, we still have the remainder of the decade to look forward to, as van Meel also confirmed at the event that M cars will never have three or four cylinders and that the manual will survive until the end of the decade.