BMW’s M performance-car division makes public its plans to produce a long-sought-after successor to the company’s 41-year-old M1 in the form of an advanced gasoline-electric supercar.
Previewed by the Vision M Next concept at a media presentation in Munich ahead of what BMW says will be a more formal debut at the Frankfurt auto show in September, the carbon-fiber-bodied coupe is planned to go on sale early next decade debuting a new 591-hp plug-in hybrid drivetrain that is earmarked to power other, more conventional future BMW M models.
The new high-performance driveline, which develops well over double the power of that found in the current BMW i8, forms part of a drivetrain-electrification program being overseen by BMW M’s new CEO, Marcus Flasch.
It aims to use the Vision M Next as a spearhead for the introduction of the technology under BMW’s more broadly based Strategy One Next initiative that is to place up to 25 electrified BMW models on sale by 2025.
The decision to develop a dedicated successor model to the M1 comes after almost three decades of conceptual studies into a mid-engined BMW.
Insiders at BMW’s headquarters in Germany say the production version of the 186-mph (300 km/h) 2-seater is planned for introduction shortly before the launch of the second-generation i8, suggesting the two cars could share key structural components.
The low-slung coupe is tied in with efforts to raise the profile of BMW’s M division operations in the face of competition from the likes of Audi Sport and Mercedes-AMG, both of which offer dedicated models in the form of the R8 and GT, respectively.
The most radical BMW M model yet draws on the wedge-shaped silhouette and tautly drawn lines of the original M1 produced between 1978 and 1981, providing it with a vaguely retro appearance, most notably around its high-set rear end.
The throwback exterior design touches are combined with contemporary styling elements similar to those seen on the BMW Vision Next concept, including a distinctive new grille featuring a laser-engraved pattern to its inserts, blade-like aerodynamic elements at the front, cutting-edge OLED lighting, wheels measuring 21 ins. in diameter up front and 22 ins. at the rear, rearview cameras and butterfly doors.
Prominent ducts are integrated into the rear-end bodywork to channel cooling air to a mid-mounted gasoline engine and electric motor, while unpainted panels within the lower flanks hint at a lightweight carbon-fiber bodyshell.
“The Vision M Next sets a very clear and confident statement in appearance,” BMW brand Design Director Domagoj Dukec explains, adding the 1972 BMW Turbo concept, the precursor to the definitive Giugiaro-designed production M1, was among his main inspirations for the new supercar.
Proposals for a convertible variant of the new BMW have been put before BMW board members, though no decision has been made on whether it will join its coupe sibling in production, which likely will take place at the company’s Leipzig plant in Germany.
The unveiling of the BMW concept comes more than 11 years after the German automaker last paid homage to its original M car with the unveiling of the M1 Homage at the Villa d’Este Concours in 2008. Despite early indications the original M car was returning, its development was halted following the unveiling of the Vision EfficientDynamics, which went on to form the basis of the i8.
At the heart of the Vision M Next is a newly developed turbocharged 2.0L gasoline 4-cyl. also set to appear in various BMW M models in coming years.
The rear-mounted combustion engine is supported by two BMW-developed and -produced electric motors, one acting on the front axle and the other providing drive to the rear axle, an arrangement conceived to provide both rear- and all-wheel drive depending on the drive mode.
Together, the three power sources are claimed to provide the upcoming production version of the Vision M Next with a maximum output of up to 591 hp and an electric range of over 62 miles (100 km).
While theoretical at this stage, BMW puts the 0-62 mph (100 km/h) time of the reborn M1 at 3.0 seconds and quotes a top speed of 186 mph (300 km/h), figures suggesting it will be significantly faster than today’s i8, which uses a turbocharged 1.5L gasoline 3-cyl. and two electric motors developing a combined 228 hp.
Inside (above, left), the BMW supercar previews a driver-centric cockpit design. It features a so-called boost pod featuring a top-fuel-dragster-style steering wheel with integrated displays and a fingerprint sensor as a starter button, a high-definition curved instrument display and an augmented-reality-supported head-up display unit as part of a new user-experience system.