BMW Developing Hybrid M Cars, Whether It Wants to or Not

BMW 4 Series

There’s a reason BMW’s M sub-brand is the performance division all other automakers strive to copy. Few letters hold as much clout as “M.” That one little addition to a BMW’s model name promises an overly generous heaping of horsepower, handling, and general sporting prowess.

Continuing to this day, “M” ensures buyers of the presence of a finely-tuned, wildly athletic six, eight, or — once upon a time — 10-cylinder gasoline engine under the hood. Only in recent years has the sub-brand seen new products that threaten to water down the purity of the designation (the X5 M and X6 M), but at least those models stick to the basic power formula.

BMW knows, however, that the gas-only party can’t last forever. The automaker now admits its foray into electrification will not end with its stock models and “i” sub-brand. “M” is poised to get a dose of “e,” and BMW’s not exactly sure how it feels about that.

Speaking to Autocar, BMW vice president Dirk Hacker blames ever-tightening European emissions regulations for the future hybrid M variants. Development has already begun, he said.

“We cannot avoid the need for electrification and it is true that we are working on hybrid power already,â€� said Hacker. “For now, all I will say is that we are working on a very precise technical solution, but there is no final decision on how to deploy the concept.”

The biggest problem facing BMW engineers is the weight gain stemming from a hybrid powertrain’s battery pack. Purists no doubt wonder how such a configuration could upset a car’s weight distribution. Still, with European cities falling all over themselves to be first to outlaw (or tax to the gills) all fossil fuel-burning cars that dare enter their borders, getting a hybrid M into development was seen as a necessity.

“Adding mass to performance cars is never ideal,â€� Hacker added. “But if we can use electrification to install more performance, then we start to have the answers. That might be more speed, or it might be the ability for a car to be driven on electric power in a city. It might also be the case that we need different answers to that question in different cities.â€�

It’s certainly a European focus for now, but there’s nothing stopping BMW USA from selling these green Ms once they roll off assembly lines — assuming consumer demand exists (and that’s a valid question). You can still drive into U.S. cities without paying a penance for your dirty ICE.

BMW’s engineers might have a tough go of it in the short-term, but there’s better solutions on the horizon. Within a few years, the automaker plans to adopt new platforms for all models that allows for a range of electrified powertrains. Next-generation batteries and electric motors arrive in 2021.

If news of a hybrid M car has you worried that Acura executives have secretly replaced BMW brass, fear not. The automaker will apparently fight till the bitter end to keep gas-only performance cars in its lineup.

“For some enthusiasts, they will always have advantages, and we have seen with the sales of the M2, which are well past expectations, that these are the kinds of cars many enthusiasts still want.” Hacker said.

If that purity does disappear, well, blame the government.

[Image: BMW]