With the success of the hybrid electric i3 and i8 models, we know BMW is looking to spread out their newfound knowledge to their entire range. According to one report, it may go to a very unexpected place: the next BMW M3. Think four-door i8, maybe?
The Detroit Bureau is reporting that “several senior company officials” at BMW have all but confirmed the next generation of M3, the posterchild of all that is The Ultimate Driving Machine, will make the leap into hybrid technology for its next generation sometime around 2018 or 2020. From their story:
“We have a lot to learn from BMW i,” a senior executive who has worked on both the battery brand and on BMW M, told TheDetroitBureau.com. He noted that until recently, the maker saw it as one of the company’s “bookends,” a counterpoint to BMW M. But now the maker is ways the two can be brought closer together.
In this case, the goal is to satisfy performance fans by adding more power while, at the same time, helping the M3 meet increasingly stringent emissions and fuel economy standards around the world. Some cities are discussing the possibility of banning the use of conventional gasoline power, but the next M3 would be able to sidestep such restrictions by switching to electric power for as much as 20 miles per charge.
The plan — which has not been announced or confirmed by BMW yet — calls for the new M3 to have one or two electric motors up front helping to boost the power output of the current 3.0-liter inline six engine lineup by a reported 73 pound feet of torque, with the gasoline fueled power all going to the rear wheels.
The motors up front would direct electric power to the front wheels in cornering for stability, rounding out a sometimes-on, sometimes-off type of torque vectoring AWD setup.
Pictured: the front setup on the i8
According to the story, the development team is said to be relying on improved battery tech that is more efficient, lighter, and cheaper to keep the M3 in its current price and weight range. The new batteries would allow the car “up to 20 miles” of range on pure electric power (through the front wheels, probably, though it’s not clear if that means the M3 will get a full-electric FWD mode — the report seems to imply it.)
This extremely radical change to the M3 was initially a tough sell apparently, but CEO of BMW of North America Ludwig Willisch has insisted in the past that this is the only way for the brand to go to keep up with the tightening grip of emissions standards and performance expectations.
And you know what? Call me crazy, but I am okay with this for the M3. Following the successful adaptation of hybrid technology into the Porsche 918, La Ferrari, and McLaren P1, it seems natural the next segment down on the ladder of performance vehicles to make the hybrid jump would be the heated performance saloon group.
Audi has been promising an e-tron R8 with almost guaranteed hopes of trickling down developments to their cookie-cutter lineup and increasing the power and efficiency of their hybrid models, as well as adapting more models along the way. BMW seems to be planning to do the same, starting with the M3.
If the report is right, affordable hybrid technology with the promise of crazy performance output just might be at our doorstep. It just took BMW billions of dollars in R&D, an entirely new sub-brand of vehicles, a complete ground-up attempt at manufacturing carbon-fiber, three companies producing million dollar hybrid supercars, crushing emissions and efficiency legislation, and probably the other German brands nipping at the heels of their sales lead to get here, not to mention all the breakthroughs in battery technology.
Once again, take this report with a grain of salt as it’s not confirmed, and some BMW exec could deny the whole thing tomorrow. But we could be looking at a real seismic shift in the sport sedan world if it’s true.