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BMW plans for M model expansion

Bahn stormer: The big and brutally powerful M760Li xDrive sedan is all but certain to come Down Under and should arrive early in the new year.

More M4/M3 body styles unlikely but new BMW M models on the way

BMW logo28 Jun 2016

By TIM NICHOLSON in HUNGARY

MORE new high-performance models from BMW’s M division are on the horizon but an expansion of the M4 range to include the 4 Series Gran Coupe is unlikely for now, according to a senior M executive.

The M portfolio has expanded recently with the addition of the well-received M2 Coupe, as well as the addition of several M Performance models such as the M235i Coupe and Convertible and the X5/X6 M50D SUVs.

BMW has also previously announced a broadening of the range, however M area manager of sales Joerg Bartels has poured cold water on an addition to the M3 or M4 range in the shape of the sleek 4 Series Gran Coupe or the more practical 3 Series Gran Turismo body style.

“Never say never,” he told GoAuto at a drive event for the M2 Coupe in Hungary.

“I cannot talk about the future and at the moment the decision was to focus on those three cars (M3 sedan, M4 Coupe and Convertible) and not offer a fourth variant.

Mr Bartels explained the decision to keep the M3 and M4 range at three variants, suggesting that BMW would be unlikely to offer an M car in all segments in which it is represented.

“We take the potential for such cars into account on the market and the cost side and finally make a decision,” he said.

“You see that we don’t have an M car in every segment, with every car body, because we spend quite a lot of effort into a car to make it feel like an M and also we skip some models in terms of variant reduction where we don’t see a very big potential.”

Mr Bartels said that consideration had to be taken into whether a new model would bring new customers to the M brand, adding that sourcing was also a factor.

“Of course there would have been potential for such a car, but the question is how many new customers do you get and how many customers do you move from a different model into this,” he said.

“There is a specific situation we need to take into account – the 4 Series Gran Coupe is produced in Dingolfing (Germany), which is a different factory than the factory where we produce the other three models. So this also means an additional financial effort.

“So never say never, you never know what the future brings but at the moment this is the situation.”

One model that BMW and M are committed to is the stonking twin-turbocharge V12-powered 7 Series-based M760Li xDrive sedan that was revealed at the Geneva motor show earlier this year.

As previously reported, it will be offered in Australia sometime early next year as the flagship 7 Series variant.

Mr Bartels said the 441kW/800Nm all-wheel drive M Performance model would compete against the Mercedes-AMG S63 and Audi’s S8 in the sporty limo segment and suggested it would be a capable M car without being a track weapon.

“So the car is of course a good choice for enthusiastic drivers. The cars are not engineered for the track – you can have some fun on the track, of course – (but) we don’t expect that too many 7 Series customers will do that, maybe just to find out.

“The car comes with a lot of performance and the car comes, as is typical for M Performance automobiles, with more features for a daily drive. Let’s say xDrive (all-wheel drive) for example and several other items.”

When asked if the M division would offer the xDrive AWD system on more M models given Audi’s success with quattro on Audi Sport variants, Mr Bartels said the brand generally did not rule out using various technologies, but acknowledged the issues it could face if it went down that path.

“It always depends on the individual situation when you start to engineer the next car,” he said.

“(BMW M CEO Frank) van Meel also gave an interview about potential electricity in the car so never say never. M doesn’t stand for certain technology, M stands for a way of driving. We think that the cars as we have them with rear-wheel drive, as you can experience with the M2, are perfect just as they are.

“If you put all-wheel drive into such a car for example you have more weight and complexity. The question is if you achieve a faster (Nurburgring) lap time.

It has a weight disadvantage of 80kg or so. At the moment we think this is the right offer – in X5 and X6 M we have xDrive because customers enjoy the multi-functionality of such concepts and xDrive is a part of it.”

Mr Bartels said the consumer response to the M Performance SUV variants had been “above our expectations” and suggested competition from the likes of Audi with its forthcoming 320kW/900Nm diesel-powered SQ7 and the Mercedes-AMG GLE variants was positive for the segment.

“I can only say in general that there is a competition and there is a struggle to be the best but I think it is fruitful. Finally, it pushed everybody on the market to show what you can do and to go for the best possible solution and I think that the winner is the customer,” he said.

The 265kW/465Nm X4 M40i SUV was ruled out for the Australian market leaving the non-M Performance-badged diesel-powered 230kW/630Nm xDrive35d as the performance flagship of the local X4 range.

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