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