- Published: Saturday, 27 May 2017 15:16
New M8 confirmed, M's Nurb test centre and more: 5 things you didn't know about BMW M's past, present and future
Nurburgring, Germany - To motoring enthusiasts, BMW M should be a known quantity by now. The brand, once BMW’s skunkworks/crack motorsport division, evolved into a full-fledged high-performance brand over the years. Now, it makes tarmac-mashing, high-powered monsters, like the 500bhp M4 GTS, as well as less extreme cars with M-genes, like the M760Li.
But in a visit to the brand’s technical and test centre at the famous Nurburgring racetrack, on the eve of the 24 Hours Of The Nurburgring - possibly Germany’s highest-profile and most hotly-contested endurance race -we got the chance to peek under the brand’s carbonfibre skin and find out surprising facts about where it’s been, what it’s doing, and where it’s going.
1. The Nurburgring is its spiritual home
We visited the BMW Nurburgring test centre, a modest facility located a stone’s throw from the Nordschleife, and it’s here that all BMWs are put through testing on the infamous track. The centre was the premises of an old BMW-Martini dealership in the 1960s, and BMW bought it over completely in 1991, refurbishing it in 2004.
“BMW was one of the first companies to test cars on the Nordschleife,” says BMW M’s vice-president of engineering, Dirk Haecker, “and you can see that in the test centre itself, as this is the only such centre located inside the ‘ancient’ part of the town.”
Just out of sight, in the back, is the Nurburg castle as the test centre is the only one in the 'old quarter' of the track
Numerous automotive companies and suppliers test here, but their facilities are usually much larger and located further away from the ‘original’ track, built in the 1920s and which loops the castle and town of Nurburg.
BMW currently tests all of its cars on the Nurburgring, but the BMW M cars are tested there more extensively than regular models in order to better facilitate tuning and setup for high performance driving.
2. ‘CS’ is a new model, and a new category
BMW M4 CS (left) and GTS (right) in the Nurburgring test centre
BMW M’s newest model, the M4 CS, previewed in Shanghai earlier and expected for a launch in late 2017 in Singapore, but we had the chance to get up close and personal with it at the Nurb’, taking in details like its carbon fibre doors and aerodynamic package.
The go-faster hierarchy for current M4 models is basic M4, M4 Competition Package (read about the Competition Package and how it changes the M3 sedan here), M4 CS, and M4 GTS.
The CS is thus an offering for drivers who want the extra oomph and sharpness over a Competition Package car, but don’t necessarily need all the track-biased performance the GTS model with its more extreme suspension, aero and overall tuning.
More important though, was the clue from BMW M representatives about what ‘CS’ (which stands for ‘Competition Sport’) means for future M models - they said the CS idea could spread to other models in the line-up, and that it could serve as the intermediate step to more extreme M models. That, by reverse logic, means we can expect some very exciting and extreme M cars in future.
3. Racing is still a huge part of M
Some purists have decried the fact that M has (at least in their eyes) lost some of its credibility over the years, having gone from a ‘real’ racing outfit to brand that sells cars and happens to race them to.
We’ll not belabour that argument, but attending the brand’s M Festival event, with the Nurburgring 24 Hour as the backdrop, it was quite apparent what BMW M’s priorities were: For owners and M fans to have lots of fun, and to watch it really go racing. Besides continuing the charge with the M6 GT3 cars in the race’s top class, there was also the M235i in the cup class.
The affordable race car, the M4 GT4, costs 169,000 Euro. No COE needed baby...
And if that wasn’t enough, M also pulled the official covers off its newest racing car, the M4 GT4. If you have 169,000 Euros to spare, you can go racing with it to in any FIA GT4 event.
4. All-wheel drive doesn’t spell doom for BMW M's heritage
M had long held to the principles of unique engines, natural aspiration, manual gearboxes and rear-wheel drive - it was all part of the mystique. Yet modernity, performance and emissions meant going turbo was unavoidable, and with the latest BMW M5 making more than 600bhp and 700Nm of torque, it’ll be equipped with all-wheel drive.
Dirk Haecker, BMW M's VP of Engineering/Development, says AWD is only part of an entire car's package and has to be carefully considered
Howls of the keyboard purists aside, it’s a sane choice, since it was almost impossible to drive the last M5 without its ESP light going off like a christmas tree decoration, even in the dry, and that the new E 63 AMG also wisely opts for AWD. Given ever higher power outputs, does that mean all Ms will eventually go this route?
The BMW M5 has been revealed in prototype form by BMW - it'll be quicker, more power, more fuel efficient and easier to drive fast, but it'll also be able to drift.
Haecker gives a measured response that should hearten RWD fans: “It could be done of course, and discussed, but I think the M3/M4 power levels are very different from the M5’s, and I don’t think (AWD) would be the right thing for an M3 or M4. We always want to have the best overall package, to see the limits of the car’s conept, and not just the highest power - look at the M3 and M4, which have only 10bhp more than their predecessors.”
5. The next new M car will be a super-lux GT
With the reveal of the BMW concept 8 Series, it’s no longer a secret that BMW returning to the grand touring coupe segment to go up against the likes of anything from Bentley Continental to the Mercedes S-Class Coupe. And yes, a two-door fast-moving GT is a natural pairing for BMW M, and it’s confirmed from M representatives that an M8 will be heading to production in the near future.
We showed Dirk and the other staff the photo above, sent in by readers who spotted a test mule in Italy, and they confirmed that it was indeed the production model of the 8 Series undergoing testing. As history goes, the original BMW 8 Series had an M8 model that underwent development but never made it to production. It looks like M will be back to tidy up that piece of unfinished business at the very least.
Update: A day after our visit to the centre, BMW unveiled the M8 in prototype form, with more photos below. Want to know what its V8 sounds like? Check this out.