The new BMW M3 lead the 26-car BMW M division assault

BMW M division is taking the fight to the Mercedes – AMG and Audi Sport through the staging of a major expansion of its line-up.

A series of new M and slightly softer M-Performance models is provided, with the overall aim to recover the sales advantage currently enjoyed by the performance divisions of its rivals.

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At the heart of the M of the new car’s development program is the sixth-generation M3 and its mechanically identical sibling, the second generation of the M4 Coupe and Convertible. The next BMW M3 is tentatively scheduled to make its world debut at the 2019 Frankfurt motor show, prior to the start of UK sales in the early 2020s.

The architect of the plan to expand the M line-up is Frank van Meel, the 51-year-old Dutch-born engineer poached from Audi Sport (formerly Quattro) in 2014 to drive BMW’s performance automobile division. Van Meel describes the new M3 as a key element of BMW M’s plans to match Mercedes-AMG with combined global sales of M and M-Performance models of over 100 000 per year in the longer term.

“With the M5, the M3 is a crucial car for BMW M,” he said. “This was not the first full-fledged M car, but it continues to claim everything that the brand is based.”

Based on the new 3 Series, the M3 is set to adopt the latest evolution of the BMW CLAR platform, a structure of the database is already being used by the 5 Series and 7 Series and their M variants, the M5 and M760iX.

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By a greater use of aluminium and high-strength steel, the new platform is claimed to play an essential role in the reduction of the weight of the new M3, despite an increase of its external dimensions.

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In addition to the new platform, BMW M is also expected to provide the new M3 with a number of lightweight carbon fiber components standard in an offer to bear the weight of the car below the 1585kg of the recently unveiled M3 CS. Although nothing is official, the new M3 is expected to follow the lead taken by the last M5 with a roof in carbon fibre as standard.

Previous reports have suggested the new M3 would be powered by a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain with a gearbox-mounted electric motor offering more performance with an extra driving mode. However, sources at BMW’s M-say, those reports were highly speculative. The latest word from M-division’s Garching headquarters is that the M3 will stick with a conventional combustion engine in the form of an updated version of the BMW M twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder mated to a series box six-speed manual or an optional eight-speed automatic.

The details are scarce, although a combination of the mechanical and software developments are claimed to increase power by nearly 10% beyond the evolution of the engine used today by M3 to about 465bhp. It is 21bhp more than today’s M3 Competition and 9bhp more than the new M3 CS.

The same sources have told Autocar that the next M3 is likely to remain at the rear-wheel drive, with earlier plans to provide with a variable four-wheel-drive system similar to that offered on the new M5 now ruled out because of cost and weight.

Full M variants of the recent introduction of the third generation of X3, the second generation X4, the fourth generation Z4 (below) and resurrected Series 8, are among the new BMW models already under development at BMW M workshops. The new Series 8 is set to sire two new M models in coupe and convertible seat which will act as a high-end alternative to the existing M6 Coupe and Convertible.

Also scheduled for launch in the next two years, according to well placed BMW M division sources, a number of new mid-range four-wheel-drive M-Performance models. These include powered variants of the new X2, the next year, the sixth generation of the 3 Series and the all-new X7 — models that are aimed at providing a stiff competition to Mercedes – AMG to come to the GLA 35, C43 and GLE 43, among others. Other new BMW M cars are on the drawing board but have not yet been officially committed to the production. Among them are the M-Performance variants of the next 4 Series GT, as well as the second generation of the Series 4 Coupe and Cabriolet — all thanks to its standard form in 2019.

BMW M, the strategy has been described to Autocar as the most ambitious undertaken by the division of the performance. Hot on the heels of the recently revealed new 592bhp M5, it plans to add up to 26 new or improved models by the end of 2020: 11 hardcore models M and 15 M Performance variants.

As well as to focus its efforts on the strengthening of the range with new models, BMW M is also planning to sharpen its appeal through the launch of the image edge track variants within each model line.

This will echo the approach taken with the recent introduction of the M3 CS and M4 CS. They will be completed in 2018 by a well designed version of the M2, which is also scheduled to receive a 400bhp-plus version of the BMW turbo 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine in conjunction with the various aerodynamic and weight-saving measures to improve its performance potential.

BMW M has turned its attention to more affordable models, too. Nothing is official, but in an effort to match the likes of the Audi S3 and upcoming Mercedes-AMG A35, early development work has started on an M-Performance variant of the third generation of 1-Series, which forgoes the rear-wheel drive of today’s model for the front-wheel-drive.

As with the similarly designed M-Performance variant of the newly unveiled X2, it is offered exclusively in four-wheel-drive guise with a running version of the BMW 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, which, in a first official BMW M model, will be mounted transversely.

Van Meel has played an important role in the enlargement of the Audi performance car portfolio with a combination of the two models, S and RS. Now, it has applied this strategy similar to BMW’s M activities with the help of a modular system of transmission of the strategy and the technology drawn from other areas of BMW’s vast operations. This includes the question of the supply of light carbon-fiber technology, originally developed for the company’s i-brand models.

Van Meel said: “BMW itself has a lot more models of BMW m, But we are looking at where we can develop our program in the future. There is a huge potential for growth. We are looking at all of the BMW models to see if we can make a M or M-Performance model, even if it must be large enough for the demand of the clients before we engage. With M-Performance, we can find buyers is not possible with classic M models.”

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