The BMW M3 has been a performance car staple for the German brand – and while it has evolved substantially over the years, it’s about to make its most drastic evolution yet.
Frank Weber, member of the board of management for BMW Group development, said the company’s next-generation Neue Klasse vehicle platform – which was previewed by the Vision Neue Klasse concept at the IAA Munich show just weeks ago – will spawn an all-electric M3, likely with a wild quad-motor electric drivetrain with nearly 1000kW.
“We definitely need [a] halo,” Mr Weber told media at the international launch of the new BMW i5.
“The Neue Klasse [platform] will be a lot of [halos] because it has so much newness in it, combined in a way that we never did before – from technical capabilities to design language… I call it ‘all, all-new’.”
“This will be the best year for [BMW] M, ever. What is M for BMW? M is our ability to take something that is already quite good as a product, and make it even better,” Mr Weber continued.
“What is clear with Neue Klasse, the thing of enhancing or having a lighthouse project that stands for the new capabilities of a new generation is really crucial.”
“Therefore, the next M3 will be battery electric, fully battery electric. And, the Heart of Joy (the all-new Neue Klasse control unit) was designed for four independently operating electric machines up to 1 megawatt (1MW/1000kW).”
“We want to come with something where we show Neue Klasse is already very ambitious, but this is far above what people are used to today. This will come with [the] M3 and will not be too far away from the initial launch of Neue Klasse as a product line.”
As for whether the removal of a screaming six-cylinder engine would deter traditional M3 customers, Mr Weber quickly pivoted to what the modern BMW M customer expects from the brand’s performance vehicles.
“M customers, especially M high-performance, want simply the highest and best performance you can get. And the moment you get into a car with almost 1MW of performance and you can control every single wheel… there might be something wrong with the engine sound, but definitely not how the car behaves – it’s incredible.”
“We had a long discussion [with the M engineering team] – when we do M high-performance, what are the ingredients for a credible, authentic M BEV? You can be sure that everything that is required is now baked into the [Neue Klasse] technology platform.”
“I think we can look forward to that experience,” Mr Weber added.
Last year BMW previewed its upcoming quad-motor electric drivetrain with a prototype based on the existing dual-motor i4 M50 – read more about that here. The company never detailed outputs or target performance figures, though Mr Weber has previously said the Neue Klasse platform offers the capacity for a 1MW performance EV.
Currently, the most powerful BMW electric vehicle is the i7 M70 xDrive, which features a 485kW/1100Nm dual-motor drivetrain good for propelling the plus-sized limousine from 0-100km/h in just 3.7 seconds. The rear e-motor alone puts out 360kW, which is almost as much as the current M3 Competition’s 375kW.
Mr Weber also hinted that both the petrol-fired M3 and an all-electric alternative could co-exist in the brand’s portfolio, given the current model’s ‘S58’ 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged inline six has only been around since the X3 M and X4 M launched in 2019.
“It’s a nice engine, we will certainly make this Euro 7-capable and other things, so it’s going to happen. We will not have two different classes – there will be co-existence of the solutions in the market, which is necessary,” Mr Weber said.
The most potent road-going version of the S58 engine currently lives under the bonnet of the M3 CS, tuned to deliver a stonking 405kW and 650Nm. Combined with M xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive, the M3 CS can hit 100km/h from a standstill in just 3.4 seconds on its way to a top speed of 302km/h.
The next-generation BMW 3 Series isn’t expected to hit the market until 2027, meaning the current G20 iteration will be almost a decade old by the time it’s retired.
Recent posts published to the Bimmerpost online forum claim the existing 3 Series will receive more running changes in 2024 or 2025 ahead of an all-new model in 2027. Before then, BMW is set to introduce a 3 Series-sized EV on its Neue Klasse architecture in 2025.
The forum post mentions an NA0/NA1 BMW i3 due to commence production in November 2026 in Germany, while the next-generation G50/G51 3 Series will be slightly later to production from July 2027, which suggests BMW will lead the next-gen 3er line-up with an all-electric version first, with combustion-powered models to follow after.
Given M models normally debut a year or so after their more mainstream equivalents, an all-electric M3 probably won’t surface until 2027 or 2028 at the earliest.
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