The Detroit Bureau is not alone with this unconfirmed news. It cites an unnamed executive within the company who has worked on both BMW's electrified i sub-brand and in its M performance division, the DB report says stricter emissions legislation is the primary motivator for the move to hybrid propulsion.
With a plug-in hybrid powertrain and battery pack, the next-gen M3 could drive in a zero-emissions mode for up to 32km before its battery is depleted - perfect for crawling through peak-hour traffic.
But it won't come at the expense of performance.
As in other hybrid-drive performance applications, the extra torque of the electric motor will likely be used to "fill in" areas on the torque curve where the M3's twin-turbo 3.0 litre six is off-boost. (Another source says a torque increase of "at least" 100Nm is the goal - taking peak torque to 650Nm.)
It could also see the M3 stray from its classic RWD configuration, with electrically-driven front wheels being under consideration.
Weight is also expected to increase due to the need for a heavy battery pack and electric motors, though lightweighting measures planned for the next-gen M3 are expected to minimise the impact on the M3's waistline.
Many of those lightweighting techniques will be borrowed from BMW's i3 and i8, both of which are built around a featherweight carbon fibre tub and utilise plastic bodypanels and extensive use of aluminium.
However, don't expect to see the M3 get electrified any time soon. With the current model only having gone on sale last year, its replacement isn't expected to arrive until 2020 at the earliest.
[Source: The Detroit Bureau]