Boss of BMW’s M division says four-wheel drive is on the way, along with selected autonomous tech

Future BMW M cars will be offered with all-wheel drive and increasing amounts of autonomous technology, but not to the detriment of driving engagement, according to the boss of BMW M division.

Speaking to Autocar, M division CEO Frank van Meel said four-wheel drive was likely to feature on models such as the M5 as power outputs increased, but he suggested rear-wheel drive would always remain the default specification.

Van Meel explained that M cars are already reaching the point where growing power outputs will oblige something to be done, but that they're still wedded to rear-wheel drive for philosophical reasons. He added that it’s already getting hard to sell rear-driven M cars with 600bhp-plus in markets such as Canada and Switzerland.

BMW engineers have been working hard to improve traction, stability control and torque vectoring systems, but Van Meel hinted that optional four-wheel drive was inevitable in the long run.

The system wouldn’t be labelled as xDrive on M cars, however. BMW believes the all-wheel-drive performance models deserve their own branding.

Van Meel suggested a name like 2+2WD or something similar was possible, in order to emphasise the car’s rear-biased set-up.

It seems the integration of i-brand electric powertrain parts into M cars is still a long way off, because the technology is still too heavy, according to van Meel. He explained that adding 150kg of equipment to M cars was too much of a compromise to handling.

The technology could trickle across into M models in the future, though. BMW’s head of sales and marketing, Ian Robertson, said at the New York motor show last month: “Consumers want more performance and less CO2, so there’s a strong case for introducing this technology into future performance models.”

The next-generation 5 Series looks set to inherit the autonomous systems of the latest 7 Series and the contemporary 48-volt electrical architecture that’ll enable it to feature hands-off operation up to a pre-determined speed, a sophisticated anti-collision system and fully autonomous braking, among other features.

It would make sense for the M5 to gain these features, but van Meel said the performance model would get only a small selection.

Given this, it seems likely the next-generation M5 — which is expected to arrive next year — will be rear-wheel drive only, with a limited amount of autonomous technology. But the following generation could be drastically different.

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Join the debate


29 April 2016
2+2WD would be a terrible moniker, you'd think the head of M would suggest something more imaginative. I'd call it XDriveM or XSport.

29 April 2016
Don't follow audi into producing over powered and ill balanced monsters, how many normal drivers will have the skill to use all that power in any case. It may be time to limit the power or stop putting all that heavy "luxury" equipment into M cars and put it in the 550i luxo-barge model.

29 April 2016
Presumably the next M2 will be based on a front wheel drive platform, so will be 4wd only?

29 April 2016
gagaga wrote:

Presumably the next M2 will be based on a front wheel drive platform, so will be 4wd only?

I doubt the next M2 will be 4WD. Comparatively speaking it's not that powerful. I think the idea of 4WD option is being considered for the likes of M5 and M6, which in the next generation will be 600hp plus and might have traction issues on slippery surfaces.

29 April 2016
Bmw was fortunate that stability control systems came along just as power outputs started to make more powerful rwd cars difficult to drive.

29 April 2016
BMW makes RWD ?

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