Having already launched the Care by Volvo subscription program, the Swedish-Chinese automotive brand wants to continue cramming feathers into its cap. It’s now launching a new mobility brand that sounds very similar to car-sharing services offered by numerous automakers and rental firms.
There could be an issue with the naming strategy, however. Volvo wants to call the company M, which is a letter of the alphabet that’s of particular interest for BMW. In case you’ve been in a coma for the last forty years, the German automaker has used the letter M (for Motorsport) to denote its performance division and affixes it to everything in its lineup with sporting pretensions. While it probably can’t claim ownership of all things relating to the mark, it’s definitely not going to be thrilled to see Volvo using it.
For a long time BMW was being accused of losing its touch when it came to building the “ultimate driving machine.” People would gripe that the company’s tech was overshadowing driving enjoyment. That may be true to some degree but you could usually point them to the M division and tell them not to worry.
However, most people don’t have the kind of money required to facilitate the purchase of an M3 — and if they don’t have the cash for that, then they definitely aren’t going to pick up the superb M5. But that’s okay because BMW eventually built the M2 and it’s probably the best car in its lineup.
That’s why we are somewhat surprised to learn BMW will be giving the fun-loving coupe a dirt nap, replacing it with the more hardcore “M2 Competition.” It’s not a new car in the strictest sense, but it is a slightly different mindset.
There’s a reason BMW’s M sub-brand is the performance division all other automakers strive to copy. Few letters hold as much clout as “M.” That one little addition to a BMW’s model name promises an overly generous heaping of horsepower, handling, and general sporting prowess.
Continuing to this day, “M” ensures buyers of the presence of a finely-tuned, wildly athletic six, eight, or — once upon a time — 10-cylinder gasoline engine under the hood. Only in recent years has the sub-brand seen new products that threaten to water down the purity of the designation (the X5 M and X6 M), but at least those models stick to the basic power formula.
BMW knows, however, that the gas-only party can’t last forever. The automaker now admits its foray into electrification will not end with its stock models and “i” sub-brand. “M” is poised to get a dose of “e,” and BMW’s not exactly sure how it feels about that.
It’s time for performance SUVs to leave the luxury domain and make their way down into the mainstream.
And who better to bring a performance utility vehicle to the masses than the man who previously headed up BMW’s M division, Albert Biermann.
Biermann, after three decades at BMW and more than half a decade in charge at BMW M, joined the Hyundai Motor Group as head of vehicle test and high performance development in 2014. His list of responsibilities at Hyundai and Kia is lengthy. His aspirations for Hyundai’s N brand, according to Drive, are lofty.
But while conventional thought would lead you to believe Hyundai’s N performance sub-brand would focus on cars, Biermann says, “The fun-to-drive element is not limited to the size and segment of the car; you can create fun cars in every segment.”
As a result — and this won’t surprise anyone who remembers that Biermann’s previous position included oversight of M versions of the BMW X5 and BMW X6 — there’s likely a Hyundai Tucson N in the future.
2015 BMW X6 M
4.4-liter, twin turbocharged V-8 with direct injection and variable valve control (567 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 553 pounds-feet of torque @ 2,000-5,500 rpm)8-speed M Sport automatic
14 city/19 highway/16 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
16.8 mpg combined, 60 percent highway, 40 percent asshat (Observed, MPG)
Tested Options: Driver Assistance Plus – $1,900; Executive Package – $4,500; Enhanced Bluetooth and smartphone – $500.
$103,050 w/ $950 destination charge
As Tested Price:
$109,950 w/ $950 destination charge
For most people who find themselves burdened with the choice between fast and big: Salud, you’ve made it somewhere. For the small number of people who scoff at those physical encumbrances: pay your taxes, please. You’re using the road more than the rest of us.
Imagine, if you can, a Venn diagram of two relatively equal circles representing a traditional buyer’s decision between two cars that, everything else being equal, represent the physical problem of mass and its direct effect on velocity. Two unrelated sets of realities — speed and size — very rarely converge in the physical world, unless those sets are colored Castrol red, Bavarian blue and of course, purple, I guess.
I’m making this point because the BMW X6 M seems, well, kind of pointless. On paper, the big SUV doesn’t scream that it wants to be taken off road (and dent those 21-inch wheels?!) nor does it seem like it wants to go that fast. After all, 5,185 pounds is large enough to have its own weather system.
We’ve talked about BMW’s portfolio expanding faster than an American on a midwest diet before, but I’m going to do it again because it’s the key to understanding the 2-series in general and the M235i in particular.
The M235i is not an M2, it is not a 235i M Sport, and it is more than the former 135is. Are you confused yet? The M235i is the first of BMW’s “M Performance” vehicles which are not to be confused with “M Sport.”
Here’s how BMW’s new four-tier system works:
Things start with M Sport which is a “looks fast/handles well” package, then we get “is” which adds a dollop of performance, followed by the new M Performance where we put M in front of a three digit model number (M235i) denoting increased power, improved handling, improved braking and suspension tweaks, before going full-on-M.
In theory, the full treatment includes body modifications like wheel well enlargements, carbon fiber bits and a dual-clutch transmission. If you’re not totally confused yet, continue reading.
With Mercedes cranking out AWD versions of their AMG products and Audi finally bringing their AWD “RS” products to America, it was only a matter of time before BMW have in and added some front-wheel motivation to their M5. Just kidding. BMW maintains that the M5 will forever retain RWD. This means the M5 will focus on dynamics and not acceleration. BMW’s answer to this deficiency since 2010 comes in the form of the X5M and X6M cousins.
When the “F01” 7-Series arrived in 2008 followed by the “F10” 5-Series in 2009, I saw the writing on the wall; BMW is the new Mercedes. My theory was “proved” after a week with the 2011 335is and 2012 X5M. BMW fans decried my prophesy as blasphemy. I repeated my statement with the 2012 328i and caught the eye of egmCarTech. A Mercedes fan tried to run me over in a parking lot. My colleagues in the press thought I lost my mind. BMW’s media watchers were eerily silent. A month later I was told that BMW would allow me a week in the all-new 2012 M6 Convertible. Would the most expensive M car change my mind or prove the point once and for all?
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