It seems that BMW’s high-performance division -- BMW M – still has not warmed up to front-wheel drive vehicles. So those who had been looking forward to BMW M vehicles being offered as such should just stop hoping as the company has reiterated that a front-wheel drive M car won't be coming.
This was confirmed in an interview with Autocar by Dirk Hacker, BMW M vice president. He remarked that in an M vehicle, the driver has to feel the car through the steering and the throttle. He added that there is currently no solution for front-wheel drive vehicles.
BMW M’s indifference to front-wheel drive vehicles is understandable. In this set-up, the front wheels are made to accomplish two things at the same time: steer the vehicle and send power to the ground. A high-performance vehicle or a sports car won't find this setup to be optimal in terms of steering and handling, especially when high-speed handling is involved. This is aggravated by the fact that most of the weight of the vehicle is focused on the front. Furthermore, the issue of torque steer – a problem usually felt during hard acceleration -- remains to be fully solved in front-wheel drive cars, especially high-performance ones.
Currently, most of the BMW M’s offering are rear-wheel drive units like the M3 and the M4. However, the next generation of the BMW M5 is now standard with all-wheel drive system – the first time that an M car is adopting such configuration. However, this doesn’t mean that the M5 has dumped the advantages and beauty of a rear-wheel drive setup. This is because the M xDrive all-wheel drive system setup in the powerful BMW M5 – with 600 hp of max output and 533 lb.-ft. of peak torque at its disposal – also offers a rear-wheel drive mode. Accessed through the infotainment system, the M xDrive could be toggled between different four-wheel drive modes and rear-wheel drive mode with no traction control.
As for the next generation of the BMW M3 and M4, Hacker indicated that these new models might still feature a rear-wheel drive system. He told Autocar that while BMW M5 will surely increase the power of the next generation of the M3 and M4, the high-performance division doesn’t want to make them heavier by employing a four-wheel drive system. He added that BMW M will use a four-wheel drive when needed.
On the other hand, Hacker disclosed to Autocar that the BMW M2 could be M division’s last car to be offered manual gearbox. He noted that there is an increasing number of customers for M cars – except for the M2 – who are preferring DCT dual-clutch automatic gearbox, which is known to deliver a wonderful combination of performance and efficiency. As for the M2, Hacker revealed that around half of its buyers prefer a manual model.