The future of performance driving could be at stake.
Despite switching to all-wheel drive for the latest M5, BMW is still committed to offering rear-wheel drive thrills for enthusiasts. The super sedan introduced a switchable xDrive setup allowing you to select a pure RWD mode if you want to get tail-happy, and this setup will also be offered in the upcoming M8.
In an interview with Australian magazine Go Auto, BMW M GmbH chairman of the board of management Markus Flasch confirmed the next-generation M3 will have a "rear-wheel-drive version” and will be offered with a manual transmission. This seems to back up reports that there will be multiple versions of the new M3, including an all-wheel drive version and a hotter M3 Competition.
Unlike Mercedes-AMG, BMW is remaining committed to rear-wheel-drive. Company chief Tobias Moers recently announced that future Mercedes-AMG models will only be offered with AWD to meet customer demand, but Flasch says BMW M will continue to offer rear-drive variants as he believes they are still relevant in certain segments.
He believes that AWD is more suitable for large SUVs and sedans that are driven for most of the year for long distances and often on dirt tracks. In the new M5, for example, the automaker found that customers hardly ever switch off AWD "because it’s just such a great drive with it”. For smaller cars like the M2, M3, and M4, Flasch believes customers often buy them as second or third cars and that rear-wheel-drive makes sense because they are often driven in good weather for special occasions. "This is not black and white, but in general there is a differentiation between the bigger cars – longer wheelbase, V8 – smaller cars, straight-six (engine), more like ‘the good weather car’, are still asking for rear-wheel drive and manual stick shift,” he said.
Flasch added that BMW M will continue to cater for enthusiasts by offering new CS versions, which won’t necessarily be restricted to coupes, implying that the next-generation M3 and SUVs could get the sporty CS treatment. BMW M’s legendary lightweight CSL models could also make a comeback, which Flasch describes as "the purest M character that you can achieve on a car that has still got license plates on it.”
No model names were suggested, but we wouldn’t be surprised if the M2 gets the CSL treatment in the future. Don’t get your hopes up for M versions of the X2 and Z4, however. Speaking about the latter, Flasch said a BMW Z4 M isn’t in the cards because it would be too difficult cramming a larger engine into the roadster.