Various tidbits of news have been trickling down over the past few years relating to how BMW’s celebrated M division will evolve into what’s looking more and more like a fully electrified future. The company has dropped a number of hints at previous auto shows and other gatherings, indicating that eventually the entire fleet of M cars will use some form of electrified drivetrain, all while remaining cautiously coy with the media.
In recent weeks, however, the mystery relating to the inevitable switch has finally been cast aside, with BMW M GmbH CEO Frank van Meel indicating that by 2030, all products of the division will be either fully electric or employ some form of hybridized propulsion.
The upcoming BMW M3, internally dubbed G80, will be the first model to set foot upon the pathway to more electrification, with more to follow. Coming off of news that shows the base model G20 3 Series will use a 48-volt electrical system and be built upon one of two new platforms, the move is hardly unexpected, but finite details are still up in the air. According to van Meel, battery technology, which has made great strides in the past few years, still remains quite heavy when it comes to the systems used in exotic supercars. Weight, of course, is a top concern when it comes to M-division vehicles; but even more important is how they drive.
Previous M3s have used a wide array of engines, including high-revving twin-cam four, six, and eight-cylinder designs, with the current version using a high-strung twin-turbocharged six. Van Meel says that while the specific details may not be of particular importance in the long run, it’s the personality of the car and its driving experience that matters. “Without going too deep into details, if we do an M car in an electrified way, it should still drive like an M,” he says, further adding that the focus should not be on what makes the car what it is, but how it behaves: “The basic target is not so much the components of the technology itself. It’s more the philosophy.”
As more and more age-old BMW traditions give way to new ways of doing things that still embody the same excitement we all crave, van Meel makes a good point. Brand enthusiasts love to draw imaginary lines in the sand related to technologies and traditions; before the F80 M3, people were worried about what turbocharging and direct fuel injection would mean for a model that was just coming off two excellent generations powered by the best naturally aspirated engines in recent memory. Before the F90 M5 broke down performance barriers to lodge itself among much less practical competitors which cost significantly more, aficionados decried the fact that BMW had once again lost is way by committing to using M xDrive. So far, everything has turned out fine, with every new generation exploring previously unknown territory in terms of performance and driver satisfaction. By the time the next generations of the M3 and M5 are introduced, we expect to see more of the same masterful integration, this time with electricity, as it applies to creating the ultimate driving machine.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]