The next big things: the future of BMW’s M Division with Frank van Meel | CAR Magazine

The next big things: the future of BMW’s M Division with Frank van Meel

Published: 04 December 2017 Updated: 04 December 2017

► Future of BMW M Division
► CAR talks to boss
► What’s next for fast BMWs?

As we get behind the wheel of the new, 592bhp, all-wheel drive BMW M5, BMW M Division boss gives us the lowdown on what’s to come…

> There’s a huge push towards electrification, and I’m excited. We’re expanding our product portfolio, and in the future all BMW Group cars be electric, including Rolls-Royce and Mini. The question is when will be the right time; when will be the tipping point for M.

> We’re led by motorsport, so electrification shouldn’t come at a penalty. M is all about precision dynamics and power-to-weight ratio. So the right time for electrification is when we can integrate these systems into our vehicles, and remain precise and agile.

> We’re forcing intensive discussions with our Project i colleagues. The right technology isn’t ready for an electrified M car. Together, we’re looking into future generations of fuel and electric cells and their electric motors. We’re not yet there, but we’re getting close.

Taking the pulse of BMW’s i brand

> Ours will be a different kind of electric car. We currently make massive changes to instil a series-production BMW with a typical M feeling. An electrified M has to drive like an M. With the M3, we started with the four-cylinder engine, then a six, followed by a high-revving V8. We’ve had manuals, autos, DCTs, so we don’t have any dogma regarding technology. But if we do something it has to be M specific – electrification will be no different.

BMW M5 front quarter blue

> We’re still discussing whether the next M3 will be a mild hybrid. We had a similar discussion about the last M4 GTS – how to get the perfect balance, the right power-to-weight ratio. You can add electric motors to increase performance but you add weight, because you also add the battery. In the GTS we added water injection. The same thinking will go into the next M3 – whether it’s partially electric, or has water injection, it will be what I expect from a BMW M3.

> We are closely connected to our motorsport colleagues. We are using the knowledge coming out of Formula E racing with regards to possible M applications. The Formula E entry definitely has Motorsport branding on it – it’s obvious that we are closely connected.

> Our customers want dynamics, but they don’t really tell us they want this or that type of technology. Our six-cylinder turbo sales have been much higher than the old high-revving V8. Our customers are not asking for six, eight, 10 cylinders or a mild hybrid. They say whatever you do, we trust you to do it the right way.

BMW M4 GTS rear tracking

> It’s still exciting – for me, M is the best job in the world. M cars are emotional. The M1 and the high-performance M3 models over the past 30 years were very special, but I also love the i8. Even though it’s not an M, I really like that car.

> Twenty-five years from now, precision, agility, dynamics will still matter. You’ll still say an M3 is an M3; an M5 an M5. Even with electrical mobility there will be no big change. We’ll aim for racing turn-in, and if you want to drift, you’ll be able to maintain your drifting angle with confidence. You’ll feel you’re in the M community, and you’ll step out of your electrified car with a little M smile. It’s just new rules, but it’s still the same racing.

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By Keith Adams

Devout classic Citroen enthusiast, walking car encyclopedia, and long-time contributor to CAR