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BMW M's electrified cars won't come at the cost of the V8 or inline six ... yet

BMW M boss says the inline six might be the last combustion engine offered by the brand.

BMW’s M division will unveil its first electrified model later this year, but the brand’s boss still thinks there is room for new powertrains to sit alongside the existing V8 and inline six-cylinder petrol engines.

Speaking on BMW Australia’s podcast last week, BMW M boss Markus Flasch said the changeover to electric powertrains won’t be instantaneous, and that existing powerplants will continue to be offered for now.

“As in the past, we offer the best propulsion technology for the use case,” he said. “We don’t have all-wheel drive in all of our cars, we don’t have V8s in all of our cars, we have diesel-powered M Performance cars as well, so there is a whole variety today and we will see this also in the future.

“BEVs work in all different segments, and there will be room for combustion engine only in the most core models, so there will an answer for every use case and there will be a reason to own more than one M car.”

Mr Flasch did not reveal more on the timing of the first electric BMW M model, and in what form it will take, but said hybrid performance powertrains are also being worked on.

“We will see the first battery electric M car performance model ready later this year, we will see high-performance hybrid variants pretty soon, and we will see high-performance battery electric vehicles in a couple of years,” he said.

A hybrid M model will likely be adopted by BMW’s larger cars, Mr Flasch hinted, such as the 5 Series-based M5 and mechanically related X5/X6 M Competition models, and the inline six-cylinder engine currently employed in the new M3/M4 could be the last purely internal-combustion engine from the performance brand.

“With the large engines, hybridisation makes the most sense and also for the cars they are used in like the M5 and large X models,” he said.

“And then the straight six is the icon, this is the backbone … it’s probably the last combustion engine that will be offered in a BMW M car.”

As it stands, the new-generation M3/M4 with their 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine outputting as much as 375kW/650Nm will likely not move to electrification as they have just launched, but the current M5 is now four years old.

It stands to reason that the next-generation 5 Series, which could be around two years away, would be developed with electrification in mind, meaning the M5 Competition’s 460kW/750Nm 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 might be augmented or downsized with hybrid performance in mind.

Mr Flasch said that electrification won’t take away from the driving appeal of M models though, and that the hurdle will be translating the unique characteristics of the new powertrains into a racetrack setting.

“Electrification, if you think it through and you use all the potential that the technology offers, you can probably achieve ultimate driving dynamics,” he said.

“This is the chance we want to take, and that we are working on.

“Longitudinal performance is something that has never been the single purpose of M, and even less so with electrified cars. With battery electric vehicles initial acceleration and longitudinal performance is something pretty much everyone can do.

“And this is not what we are working on, we are working on ultimate driving dynamics.

“The M cars we will put on the road, the electrified M cars, will show that this is the future.”