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Sub-M car range to bring more sporty BMWs

BMW M Performance Automobiles range to kick off with tri-turbo diesel X6

16 Jan 2012

BMW’s M division will start tinkering with diesel engines for the first time with the advent of a new M Performance Automobiles line-up, which from later this year will offer souped-up BMW vehicles that stop short of being full-fat M cars.

It will provide BMW with a two-tier performance ladder, much like Audi’s range of sporty S models that complement its high-performance RS variants and provide a bit of M magic to models that do not have an M flagship version.

The first example, confirmed to be an X6 SUV that will most likely come with a high-performance diesel engine, should arrive in Australia in the third quarter of this year.

It is expected to debut a straight-six, triple-turbo setup that will eventually make its way under the bonnet of other models, meaning there was some truth in rumours about the existence of a diesel M5.

Power and torque outputs of the new engine should eclipse those of the already punchy 225kW/600Nm produced by the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel six in the X6 xDrive 40d, and even the 300kW/600Nm developed by the 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol of the 50i variant.

BMW Group Australia head of corporate communications Piers Scott said the new engine would be positioned beneath the flagship X6M, which will continue to top the range, powered by a 408kW/680Nm version of the petrol V8.

14 center imageLeft: BMW Group Australia head of corporate communications Piers Scott.

Nomenclature for the new models is likely to follow the precedent of sub-M cars that first appeared in the 1980s such as the M535 sedan and M635 CSi coupe, with the hot diesel X6 likely to wear the designation M50d on its rump.

Mr Scott said the M Performance cars would continue on from, rather than replace, performance-oriented ‘is’ variants such as the Z4 sDrive35is roadster.

He added that the M division is “pretty cautious and conservative when it comes to protecting the M badge”, meaning the products promise a level of bespoke engineering rather than just more power from engine management upgrades.

Speaking in a video interview on BMW’s YouTube channel, BMW M GmbH president Dr Friedrich Nitschke said adding BMW M Sport packages and boosting the power output of existing models “would not go nearly far enough”.

He said M Performance models will rather “benefit from the full expertise of (M division) in fusing power transfer with excellent dynamics”, promising more details of the first vehicles will emerge later this month, followed by more model announcements later in the year.

“We are targetting our efforts at customers looking for more emotionality and more performance, but who don’t want to forgo the everyday usability of their cars,” he said.

Dr Nitschke also said he could “imagine all-wheel drive playing a significant role”, which for models like the 3 Series and 5 Series would take the fight to Audi’s Quattro-equipped S4 and S6.

However, Mr Scott said the addition of M Performance variants “will not change the fact that we currently cannot get the all-wheel drive sedans, tourings and coupes in Australia” as they will remain available as left-hand drive only for the foreseeable future.

Asked which other cars are likely to receive the M Performance treatment, Mr Scott described cars in the BMW line-up that, like the X6, are already “popular with the aftermarket and people throwing accessories with them”.

“The strategy behind the M Performance is to look at gaps in the model line-up where customers have a lot of enthusiasm for in some cases modifying their own vehicles and developing high-performance versions,” he said.

According to Mr Scott, M Performance products are “targetting segments and categories of cars where we know there is a proven demand for this sort of thing”, citing the example of customers who regularly tune their 135i coupe or convertible to 240kW – just 10kW shy of the output achieved by the 1M.

The 135i’s enthusiast following and BMW’s encouragement of customers to customise the new 1 Series hatch points to the probable existence of an M135i hatchback.

A version of BMW’s N20 four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine is also due to join the 1 Series hatch line-up this year, representing a third state of tune for the powerplant, which was recently introduced to the Z4 Roadster in 135kW and 180kW forms.

The N20 in the 125i will produce 160kW at 5000rpm and develop 310Nm of torque between 1350 and 4800rpm, resulting in a 0-100km/h sprint in 6.5 seconds when fitted with the eight-speed automatic transmission.

Fuel consumption will be a frugal 6.4 litres per 100 kilometres, with CO2 emissions rated at 149 grams per kilometre, again measured with the automatic transmission option.

An M Sport package will also become available this year.

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