The automotive industry at large may be working to downsize engines to extract greater fuel efficiency from cars, but not BMW's M division. Today's modern 4-cylinder engines aren't up to par for the performance division and BMW M's chief, Frank van Meel, said there won't be an M car powered by a 4-cylinder anytime soon.
The executive made the comments to Australian media in Munich, and they were reported on by Car Advice. According to van Meel, the division he oversees is keen to keep its inline-6 engines for the foreseeable future.
“We are really happy with our 6-cylinder [engines] because for BMW and BMW M that is our heritage engine. We started with 6-cylinder in the M1 so it has a long history. BMW is a 6-cylinder inline company and, for us, it’s an iconic engine,” van Meel said. Nevermind the fact the E30 M3 featured a 4-cylinder engine.
Mr. van Meel went on to say the characteristics of 4-cylinder engines don't mesh well with M-division cars. Their lack of low-end torque is a major concern, he said. He didn't rule out the possibility of one day augmenting a turbocharged inline-4 engine with an electric motor, but he also exuded caution over that possibility.
"With the current generation we see ‘E’ motors that are still not strong enough for M applications, and if you look at plug-in hybrids, it will add 200-300 kg (440-660 pounds), which, for a car like an M3/M4 with 1,500 kg (3,306 pounds), would put that completely out of balance and we couldn’t rebalance that towards a typical M philosophy," van Meel said. He also noted that the M division is currently working with BMW's i electric-car arm for next-generation battery cells and how they will relate to the overall weight of a car.
One day, M-division cars won't escape electrification. BMW CEO Harald Krueger said earlier this month that the automaker's large-scale electrification plans even include M and Rolls-Royce cars.