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BMW Will Add AWD to M

Needed to handle increasing power, says M brand chief.

by on Jan.22, 2015

The BMW M5 is going to get all-wheel drive and a form of torque vectoring to handle all that power.

BMW will be taking the lead from its two German rivals, adding all-wheel-drive to some of its high-performance M models.

Audi has long relied on all-wheel-drive to put power to the pavement with its S and RS lines, and Mercedes-Benz recently announced that it will go AWD on all but a handful of its AMG performance products. BMW was the holdout – with the exception of its performance Sports-Activity Vehicles.

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Going forward, however, that will change – slightly – said Frank van Meel, the head of BMW M. Speaking to Britain’s AutoCar, he said the “philosophy will remain rear-wheel drive, (but) as we increase the power and torque, then the M5 and M6 will have large outputs, so we’ll look at those (AWD) solutions.”

There’s long been a debate among performance aficionados about the benefits of all-wheel-drive. On the plus side, there’s more rubber meeting the road, which can improve traction at takeoff, among other things. But conventional AWD also tends to push cars into corners, resisting the need to turn.

The Mercedes-Benz CLA 45AMG utilizes all-wheel drive.

New systems have been able to overcome this drawback. Audi, for one, uses so-called torque vectoring on many of its models. Either by applying the brakes on the inside wheel or by mechanically delivering more power to the outside wheel, torque vectoring actually improves cornering.

It would be highly likely, according to informed sources, that BMW would go with its own torque vectoring system. For his part, van Meel stressed that the Bavarian maker won’t use the same xDrive system found in more conventional BMW models. For one thing, it will adopt a rear bias to torque, rather than starting out with a 50:50 power split, as is common on mainstream models.

During most driving situations, then, a future BMW M5 or M6 will continue to feel like a classic rear-drive model – until conditions demand traction from the front wheels, as well. The possibility is that future BMW Ms may also be equipped with a switch that would allow a driver to lock the car in rear-drive-only mode.

At least that’s the word from various sources. For his part, van Meel and other BMW execs are only committing to “look” at all-wheel-drive options for the M line, but the general consensus is that this is the way the brand will go.

After all, there seems to be a sort of consensus among the German makers to follow the leader, especially when it comes to new technologies. And with its formidable foes Mercedes and Audi committed to all-wheel-drive it has seemed like only a matter of time until BMW would fall in line.

The BMW X5 M uses xDrive for its all-wheel drive capabilities.

(Japan investing big in hydrogen power. For more, Click Here.)

In fact, BMW already uses rear-biased AWD on its sport-activity vehicle performance models, such as the X5 M, so it wouldn’t be a true first to have an M5 xDrive.

(Click Here for details about the Mercedes-Maybach pricing.)

Ironically, if BMW does deliver an all-wheel-drive M, it would force true believers to look beyond the Germans for rear-drive performance. And Cadillac is set to deliver. While it offers an all-wheel version of its new CTS sedan, the upcoming CTS-V will only pump power to the rear wheels.

(To see more about Infiniti’s future plans for the Eau Rouge, Click Here.)

“Is there desire for all-wheel-drive? Sure,” said Chief Engineer Tony Roma, during a preview of the new Caddy V last month. “But I also think there’s a real market for rear-wheel-drive performance cars.”

That’s an issue BMW now appears to be debating. We should see how that argument shakes out within the next few years.

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3 Responses to “BMW Will Add AWD to M”

  1. Brian says:

    ” On the plus side, there’s more rubber meeting the road”

    Really? How’s that? The AWD versions have different tires? Admittedly there’s more driven rubber meeting the road, but that’s a bit different, isn’t it? Regardless, BMW M makes few good decisions these days. While very impressively engineered, the cars are feeling less and less “fun” and thus not such a good value. The M sub-brand is no longer particularly special due to the profusion of M-type models. Too bad, but that’s entropy. Ferrari experienced it long ago, and now exists as a brand with very little product worth having except to show one’s “friends”.

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      LOL…quibble accepted, Brian…more DRIVEN rubber meeting the road.

      And, yes, with everyone making M competitors, it’s difficult to be a true standout anymore, though I am still blown away by my drive, last summer, of the new M3 and M4 models.

      Paul E.

  2. Jorge says:

    The BMW purist will go postal over this but in reality it’s not only needed, it’s the intelligent means to apply the maximum power to the pavement at any time. It’s funny to see the boy racers spinning their rear tires on BMW’s on track while an AWD vehicle drives under them and away exiting the turn.

    As far as BMW’s current AWD system – it’s very dated and not even close to being world class. They ignored the AWD BMW consumer for way too long and now they are paying the price. BMW’s basic AWD should be torque vectoring with dynamic F to R torque split. The M car could add rear steer and reduced torque loss from vectoring to differentiate itself from the std. advanced tech AWD BMW needs.