Every mainstream sporting brand is electrifying, but BMW M’s transition seems especially poignant given the hallowed status of not just its historic and current cars but also the specific engines that power them.
Whichever way you cut it, the future of the pure-combustion straight six is a short one. Emissions regulations and EV mandates will see to that, the same way they will for Lamborghini’s V12, Alfa Romeo’s V6 and even newer cult heroes like Ford’s three-pot Ecoboost. So the BMW M3, as we have fundamentally known it for 30 years, will one day soon undergo its biggest transformation yet – but M boss Frank van Meel isn’t overly worried about soiling its legacy.
“At some stage, we always have to say goodbye to an engine we really love,” he said. “That’s the story with the M3. Four-cylinder, six-cylinder, eight-cylinder, naturally aspirated. Then we had to say goodbye to natural aspiration and go to turbocharged engines. And every time there was a huge cry in the community: ‘How could you do that?’ But you have to say goodbye at some stage and welcome new technology.”
Indeed, the BMW M5 packed a roaring V10 punch not so long ago, and even more recently you could have an M-badged BMW 7 Series with a mammoth V12. The fact that those cars currently have smaller engines is no slight on their overall competence, nor their desirability – and the same will no doubt be true of an electrified (or even electric) M3.