The CEO of BMW’s M Division has conceded that the company is fast approaching the practical limit of how much power can be sent to the rear wheels only, and hinted that the future high-output M cars like the M5 and M6 may have to adopt an all-wheel drive layout.
In an interview with British outlet Autocar, M Division CEO Frank van Meel said models like the M5 may eventually feature all-wheel drive underpinnings - at least as an option, especially in wintery markets such as Canada and Switzerland.
And while van Meel pointed out that great advances had been made in traction control, stability control and torque-vectoring technology, there’s simply a hard limit on how much power can be sent to the rear wheels of a road car.
But it’s not like BMW’s performance arm will be venturing into new territory. The red-hot SUV duo of the BMW X5 M and BMW X6 M (below) already take power to all four wheels, via a permanent all-wheel drive system that does its best to feel rear-driven, but still has the security of AWD.
Meanwhile rival Mercedes-AMG - another performance arm that has built its reputation on a long line of rear-drive performance cars - equipped its M5 rival, the E63 AMG, with all-wheel drive from 2013 in some markets (Australia being one of the few markets where AWD is not available for that model).
The M5’s other main competitor, the Audi RS6 Avant, has long traded on its all-weather grip, having never been available in a 2WD configuration.
However while a second differential and a set of front driveshafts appear destined for the next-generation M5, van Meel says that one thing is certain - a hybrid future is not part of the plan for BMW M just yet.
Citing the weight impost of adding a high-voltage battery pack and electric drive motors to a car (which would add around 150kg to the kerb weight of an M5), van Meel said the dynamic compromises involved in increasing the mass of a car would negate any performance advantage of a hybrid powertrain.
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