Here’s the First All-Electric BMW M Car, Now Testing on Public Roads

The end for combustion-powered BMW M cars is now officially in sight thanks to a new prototype from the Bavarian automaker.

byPeter Holderith|
An electric BMW i4 prototype.
BMW
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BMW puts its "M" Badge on EVs, but it stops short of giving its electric cars the full M performance treatment. Cars like the i4 M50 and iX M60 are sporty trims of its new electric offerings, but not standalone M models. That's about to change. On Wednesday, BMW showed us an all-electric, quad-motor prototype based on the i4 that's an important stepping stone in the brand's move toward total electrification.

The prototype's exact specifications for horsepower and torque are not given. We're only told it has four motors, one for each wheel. Along with other hardware, they enable some advanced technological trickery. Things like torque vectoring and braking are done more precisely and predictably with electric motors. That allows for what BMW—in typical BMW fashion—calls "entirely new performance characteristics" that will be possible in "highly dynamic situations." The word "athletic" is not used, however. Bummer.

Those motors aren't just hooked straight to the wheels. A "multi-plate clutch and differentials" manage the power application, which is an interesting move. It's likely that these motors, at least individually, do not produce very much power. That's in contrast to the 300+ horsepower single motor setups we see on some new EVs, like the Cadillac Lyriq. Instead, BMW apparently sees advantages to distributing smaller motors around the vehicle, which could allow for more carefully controlled dynamics. All of this being said, the automaker shows the vehicle—likely a digitally rendered version of it—doing a tank turn in a preview clip.

All of this might be a little relieving to some enthusiasts, but probably not really. BMW is still going to make an all-electric M car, something most internal combustion fans are going to have a hard time getting over. The fact that the drivetrain is a little more nuanced than those found in other EVs may not do much to win back the traditionalists. That careful technical nuance is also kind of betrayed by, you know, the car doing a stationary donut on asphalt.

This transformation to electrification is happening before our eyes, though. The automaker's new performance SUV, the XM, features a twin-turbocharged V8, yes, but also a potent electric motor mated to the transmission. This same drive system is also likely coming to the M5, and probably to the M3, too. Minus the V8, of course.

BMW isn't telling us when we'll see something like this in dealers, but it's coming.

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