BMW M GmbH Head Friedrich Nitschke Talks Electric Steering, All-Wheel Drive, and Three-Cylinders
M GmbH will go away from producing unique engines like this naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V-10 in favor of mills based on BMW Group powerplants.
At the press launch of the M6 Gran Coupe in Munich, we had the chance to sit down with the head of M GmbH, Friedrich Nitschke. In an unusually open interview, he answered questions about a number of items both worrying and exciting: electromechanical power steering, all-wheel drive, and perhaps even three-cylinder engines.
Car and Driver: The current M3 was fitted with a unique M engine. Will future vehicles be derived from existing BMW engines, or will you continue to afford yourself the luxury of bespoke M engines, like the naturally aspirated V-8 and V-10?
Friedrich Nitschke: At the core of their architecture, our engines will be closer to BMW AG engines. But they will be optimized for the specific needs of M customers, so we can still essentially speak of standalone engines.
C/D: Will you remain committed to high-revving engines despite turbocharging?
FN: Our V-8 turbo engines can easily top 7000 rpm, and it is safe to assume that there is room beyond that.
C/D: Will the upcoming M3 and M4 be fitted with electromechanical power steering?
FN: Without confirming any product speculation, it is safe to assume that we will offer electromechanical power steering in the future. The technology is now fully on par with a good hydraulic power-steering system.
C/D: Is it still possible to order a current-generation M3?
FN: Actually, it is sold out. We will build the coupe and the cabriolet for about another half year, but on principle, the cars are spoken for.
C/D: At Audi, all-wheel drive is at the core of the RS models, and now Mercedes-Benz AMG is launching all-wheel-drive models as well. Will you follow suit?
FN: We discuss the topic with our customers in a regular fashion, and it emerges that they are very happy with rear-wheel drive. For those who think otherwise, we offer the X5 M and X6 M and our M Performance models.
C/D: So you are ruling out all-wheel drive for the regular M models?
FN: Yes, at least for the current model generation. Of course, we will re-evaluate the topic when we define the next-generation M5. But that is a long way down the road.
C/D: Do you believe that driving dynamics would suffer from all-wheel drive?
FN: We are convinced that would be the case. An all-wheel-drive system means 150 to 200 pounds more weight, and a clear loss of precision in steering. Ultimately, the competition between the brands would be narrowed to straight-line performance. And, by the way, we do not believe that this would be a sustainable approach.
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C/D: M5 and M6 are relatively heavy cars. What about the upcoming, more-compact models?
FN: The weight of the M5 and M6 is on a level with the competition. But it is safe to assume that a lightweight approach is at the core of our business, and there will be an unconventional mix of materials where you won’t necessarily expect it.
C/D: BMW is working on a compact vehicle architecture that will be fitted with three-cylinder engines. Is that a topic of discussion for you as well?
FN: The three-cylinder is an attractive engine. It is possible to reach around 185 to 200 horsepower per liter in a forced-induction three-cylinder and we have 1.5 liters of displacement. Such an engine, which, by the way, sounds very similar to a six-cylinder engine, would have over 310 horsepower. And we are not even at the limit there. Generally speaking, I could imagine such an engine.
By Jens Meiners