Although the new M3 Touring is taking center stage at the 2022 Goodwood Festival of Speed, the upcoming LMDh prototype is also there as a sign of things to come. Autocar sat down and had a chat with M boss Frank van Meel about how the company’s motorsport expertise will shape the future of M vehicles in the electric era. BMW aims to add excitement to EVs by infusing some of its motorsport know-how during the development phase.
One method to make zero-emissions cars more thrilling is by replicating the noises made by an internal combustion engine. Not only that, but the goal is to also mimic the special feeling you get when changing gears in a manual M car, be it an M2 or an M3/M4. However, it’ll take a while to come up with these features as the M division’s head honcho admits it has yet to figure out solutions.
“In racing, you judge your speed by hearing the revs and knowing what gear you’re in. You need that feedback, and we need to replicate it. We need to find a solution for this in racing and then drip-feed it down to our road cars.”
While BMW M has promised to keep the inline-six and V8 engines alive until 2030, Frank van Meel feels the pressure coming from regulators regarding the inevitable ICE ban:
“If everything is going electric by then, then there will be no GT3 or GT4 [racing] if we don’t; we will be left racing old-timers. We have to start our studies now, as it will take years to get there. If we want to race at Le Mans in 2030, then we need to find solutions.”
Although a return to Formula 1 has already been ruled out, the LMDh program will help BMW M accelerate the development of road cars that will keep up with increasingly stricter emissions regulations. The lessons learned while engineering the V8 hybrid endurance car will also pay dividends in terms of optimizing cooling and aerodynamics for road-legal M models.
In the meantime, Frank van Meel sees the glass half full regarding the eventual demise of the ICE: “It is not the end of a journey but the beginning of another exciting one for M.”
That journey will start before the end of the year with the XM SUV featuring a plug-in hybrid V8 setup related to the LMDh’s and quite possibly to 2024 M5’s as well. Meanwhile, also arriving by late 2022 will be the next-generation M2 G87 as the last non-hybrid M car.