Dial M for mon­ster

BMW is bank­ing on a bigMto sat­isfy driv­ers’ thirst for a new model, writes KEITH DID­HAM in Ger­many

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

AMON­STER M car based on BMW’s con­tro­ver­sial X6 heavy­weight is def­i­nitely go­ing ahead. Con­fir­ma­tion of the car comes af­ter months of ru­mours about a go­faster up­grade of the X6 Sports Ac­tiv­ity Ve­hi­cle as BMW’s new M chief talks of six or seven new projects.

An M up­grade of the baby 1 Se­ries is likely to be one of his tar­gets.

Lud­wig Wil­lisch, the new pres­i­dent of BMW M, con­firms the X6 up­grade is go­ing ahead as part of a pro­gram that in­cludes fu­ture mod­els of ex­ist­ing Mmodels, in­clud­ing the M5, which is near­ing the end of its life.

How­ever, Wil­lisch warns any new de­vel­op­ment still has to meet the ba­sic de­sign cri­te­ria be­hind the M badge, de­mand has to be pri­mar­ily cus­tomer-driven, and it has to pro­vide thor­ough­bred sports-car per­for­mance and han­dling.

One Wil­lisch project is an M ver­sion of the twin-turbo V8 X6 which goes on sale in Aus­tralia in De­cem­ber.

The M ver­sion, prob­a­bly due in 2010, has been seen un­der­go­ing fi­nal test­ing in Europe and North Amer­ica. It is likely to be badged the X6-M be­cause Mazda al­ready owns the rights to MX-6.

Wil­lisch says there is ob­vi­ous room for a new M model to slot un­der the ex­ist­ing M3, but no de­ci­sion has been made on that.

Asked if that meant the 1 Se­ries, us­ing the 135i as a base, he said: ‘‘I agree there is an op­por­tu­nity to of­fer such a car, but it had to be eco­nom­i­cally vi­able and we couldn’t push the bound­ary and get to close to the M3.’’

Though he hasn’t com­pletely ruled out a diesel-pow­ered M car, it will not hap­pen un­til BMW has an en­gine with the re­quired level of high-revving per­for­mance. ‘‘We never say never,’’ he says. He also hints that turbo or su­per­charg­ing — an op­tion the M divi­sion has avoided so far — has a bet­ter chance of even­tu­ally gain­ing M ap­proval, es­pe­cially in smaller mod­els such as the 1 Se­ries, where BMW is ex­pected to look at down­siz­ing en­gine ca­pac­ity without pe­nal­is­ing per­for­mance to help meet tougher emis­sion stan­dards.

‘‘Tur­bocharg­ing is on our agenda, in com­bi­na­tion with down­siz­ing,’’ he says.

Heavy duty: a BMW X6 up­grade is among sev­eral projects the Ger­man com­pany’s new M chief is talk­ing up.

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