Car makers love “halo” cars — souped-up, high performance models that add some luster to their bread and butter everyday cars. For GM, it’s the Corvette; for Ford, it’s the GT. BMW’s M division has been responsible for creating halo cars for the company for decades, primarily the mighty M5, which debuted in 1985. The company claims its cars are “The Ultimate Driving Machine” and the M5 has always been the embodiment of that that statement.
Recently, the company was hard at work on an M Next super sportscar to supplant the i8, a hybrid two-seater with a turbocharged 3-cylinder gasoline engine for the rear wheels and an electric powertrain for the front wheels. But a combination of production delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic and high development costs have forced the company to shelve the M Next project, according to Car Magazine. Low sales have also hurt the stunning but hyper-expensive 18.
So what’s next for the M division? Car says the company’s focus has now switched to developing a battery electric version of the next generation 5 Series sedan which will carry the iconic M5 label. A member of the development team tells Car, “The Bavarian Motor Works are latecomers to the EV scene, and the same applies unfortunately to autonomous driving. Mid-term, our only stable competitive advantage is ride, handling and roadholding. But the biggest challenge by far is cost, which is why the board has buried the projected halo car.”
That is a stunning admission for the once proud company from Bavaria. It’s like saying “We can’t compete with the likes of Tesla and Porsche so we are just soldiering on, hoping for a miracle.” The specs for the zero emissions M5 are impressive — 135 kWh battery, three 250 kW electric motors, zero to 100 km/h in 2.9 seconds, and 435 miles (WLTP) of range. It is believed the first generation of M5 Electric will operate on a 400 volt system, but there are rumors that might get bumped up to an 800 volt system in time, the better to compete with the Porsche Taycan.
Green Car Reports says BMW is still committed to bringing 12 all-electric models to market in coming years, but they won’t all wear the BMW roundel on their flanks. One is the MINI Cooper SE that is in showrooms now. Another will be the Rolls Royce Phantom and a third will be the Cullinan SUV.
For decades, the BMW 3 Series has been the car that has kept the company afloat. If it doesn’t figure out how to bring a mass market electric car to market soon, there may be no future for the company.
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