Creative thinking

BMW M’s president explains how the high-performance brand will balance contrasting demands by developing more complex traditional powertrains, electrification and innovative materials

The days of large vee engines are coming to an end as stricter emissions controls bite. But thankfully, while you are less likely to see a V10 in a mass-produced vehicle these days, clever engineers are continuing to find inventive ways to sate the driver’s appetite for high-speed thrills.

BMW turns 100 this year and for M, the performance arm of the group, it is a significant period, says M president, Frank van Meel. 

“Without BMW, M would not exist. We’ve had 30 years of the M3, and it is an important time because this year the M2, X4, 4Ti, M760i and the M4 GTS come to market. So we have got quite a broad product portfolio coming up.” 

The last of those vehicles, the M4 GTS, is of particular interest. Much like the non-GTS M4 coupé and the M3, the vehicle has a twin-turbo 3-litre V6 engine that replaced the naturally aspirated 4-litre V8. 

What sets the GTS model’s engine apart, however, is that it incorporates water injection technology, first tested in the M4 MotoGP safety car. Injecting water improves the combustion process in the six-cylinder gasoline engine by reducing temperatures by 25°C.

The system adds a further 51kW of power and an additional 50Nm of torque to the 317kW/550Nm already developed by the unit.

Providing a top speed of 305km/h and capable of reaching 100km/h from standing in 3.8 seconds, it makes the M4 GTS the fastest road vehicle ever produced by the OEM.  

Weighing in at 1,510kg, the vehicle is 30kg lighter than the standard M4, owing to the extensive lightweighting measures taken.

“Carbon fibre, for us, is still a very important material,” says van Meel, adding: “The M4 GTS shows it very strongly with a carbon-fibre hood, roof, front splitter, trunk lid, spoiler, diffuser and also a lot of the material in the interior as well – I think it is the first time in the automotive industry that someone made the dashboard bar out of carbon fibre. 

“There is also a driveshaft and the transferal supports underneath the roof made of the same material.”

The M3 was the first vehicle from the group to have a carbon-fibre roof more than 10 years ago, and since then BMW’s understanding of and expertise in the lightweight material has grown considerably.

Apart from carbon fibre, there are of course other materials that can help engineers to shed weight from their vehicles. On the M4 GTS, there is a titanium exhaust, which alone saves 6kg, and there is a 10kg saving from using ceramic brakes.

tags: June 2016 BMW Powertrain