I will not be the only motoring journalist able to recall conversations with senior BMW management in which we were told that that they’d never create an ‘M’ version of any of their SUVs.
I can even remember suggesting – not entirely seriously – that one reason for this might be the difficulties in calling a BMW an MX5. In fact the reason why M and X would never mix were simple: tall and heavy SUVs were inherently unsuited to the sporting aspirations of the ‘M’ brand and the need to equip them with large engines with low-end torque was at odds with the ‘M’ philosophy of comparatively small-capacity, high-revving engines.
Now that all appears to have been set aside, should we be surprised? For some time Mercedes has proven less than shy about spraying the AMG badge all over the place, the only stated prerequisite being that its recipients must not have front-wheel drive. Four-wheel drive, however, is fine, as the ML63 AMG proves. And it is easy to see how, three or four years ago, the thought of cars to combat this and the Porsche Cayenne must have seemed like an excellent idea. I expect BMW is rather less warm about these cars now, but there’s not much it can do about it.
The question that interests me is which one of the German premium manufacturers now has the strongest sporting sub-brand. Is it BMW’s M, Mercedes’ AMG or could it, in fact, be the Audis made by its quattro GmbH subsidiary?
Thanks to the R8, and until AMG puts the SLS on sale this time next year, quattro is the only one of the three with its own, bespoke product and it is the only one that, so far, has resisted the temptation of turning its attention to an SUV.
Of course it may yet come to pass that Audi will launch an ‘RS’ version of the Q5 or, God help us, the Q7, but with the 6.0-litre, 500bhp, Q7 V12 TDI already on sale without an RS badge in sight, I doubt it. Instead Quattro GmbH’s next product will be the five-cylinder TT RS, whose on-paper specification has got me more excited than I ever thought possible of anything related to a TT.
Fast Audis always used to be greeted with a fair bit of derision round here, but no longer, and right now I’m looking forward to the next one rather more than I am the next M car. Who’d have thought that even 10 years ago?