The Vision M Next uses plug-in hybrid power to switch between rear- and all-wheel drive. Picture: SUPPLIED
The Vision M Next uses plug-in hybrid power to switch between rear- and all-wheel drive. Picture: SUPPLIED

BMW has dropped a huge hint that M will finally receive its long sought-after standalone sports car by showing the Vision M Next at its BMW Welt centre in Munich this week.

The high-performance M division has been searching for a standalone model since the E26 M1 from the 1978 and a wave of BMW electrification could give it the chance to deliver its second M machine.

The Vision M Next is a very strong hint, because BMW usually only uses the “Vision” tag on cars around 12 months away.

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It’s also not the first time BMW has dipped into this well, because it built the M1 Homage concept car in 2008 — designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, who also designed the original M1.

The Vision M Next uses plug-in hybrid power to switch between rear- and all-wheel drive, relying on a turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine and a monster electric motor to deliver 441kW, giving it a 300km/h top speed and a zero to 100km/h time of three seconds.

The flipside of that performance is a lithium-ion battery that can deliver 100km of zero-emission, pure electric driving, turning it from an indulgent sports car into a semi-responsible citizen, with BMW claiming it’s a sports car for future cities.

TECHNOLOGY CAN MAKE DRIVING YOURSELF PURER AND MORE EMOTIONALLY ENGAGING.

It can drive as a pure combustion car, a pure electric car or a combination of both and has a Boost+ button to deliver extra urge when it’s needed.

It steps up from the petrol-electric BMW i8 with a bigger battery, a bigger and stronger electric motor — without rare-earth metals — and a four-cylinder engine where the carbon-tubbed i8 used just three cylinders.

BMW wouldn’t confirm a production future for the car, instead admitting only that it was “revealing its take on how driving pleasure might look in future for those who enjoy taking the wheel themselves. It offers a foretaste of the BMW M brand’s electrified future by placing the focus squarely on the actively engaged driver.”

“The BMW Vision M Next provides a glimpse into the future of sporty driving,” BMW Group design boss, Adrian van Hooydonk, said.

“Where the BMW Vision iNEXT illustrated how autonomous driving is set to transform life on board our vehicles, the BMW Vision M Next demonstrates how state-of-the-art technology can also make the experience of driving yourself purer and more emotionally engaging.

“In both models, the focus is firmly on the people inside. Design and technology make the ‘Ease’ and ‘Boost’ experiences more natural and more intense.”

The Boost concept delivers extra power and human driving, while the Ease concept is the car’s full autonomous-driving mode.

The carbon-fibre concept is more of a one-line design than the original M1 (which, while beloved at BMW, was actually a financial flop), with hints of Lamborghini Hurucan, the Nissan GT-R and the M1 about it.

Its headlights creep in a triangle up the front quarter panel and it thankfully escapes the giant kidney grilles of BMW’s more modern luxury models.

Sci-fi becomes reality: a full-surface augmented reality head-up display on the windscreen. Picture: SUPPLIED
Sci-fi becomes reality: a full-surface augmented reality head-up display on the windscreen. Picture: SUPPLIED

There’s another step forward in lighting tech from the company that debuted laser headlights, and the Vision M Next uses Laser Wire lighting, with phosphorous-coated glass fibres used to produce headlight elements.

“The BMW Vision M Next is a progressive hybrid sports car that makes a very clear and confident statement, in terms of both appearance and interaction,” BMW Design vice-president Domagoj Dukec said.

“The emotion-stirring exterior design clearly announces the BMW Vision Vehicle’s performance potential, borrowing styling cues from both classic and contemporary BMW sports cars in the process.

“The BMW Vision M Next draws its inspiration from the iconic BMW Turbo and groundbreaking BMW i8 plug-in hybrid and adopts a future-focused interpretation of design elements such as the low-slung, wedge-shaped silhouette, gullwing doors and striking colour scheme.”

It runs intentional splashes of matt-neon Thrilling Orange on its rear flanks, rear wheels and front air intakes, jumping out as highlights on the matt silver bodywork.

Its innovation suite features facial-recognition technology to unlock the car automatically, opening the gullwing doors to a minimalist interior.

The interior geometry has a deliberately low-key feel so that the driver can concentrate fully on the driving experience, said Dukec.

The dash is dominated by horizontal lines, starting with the horizontal steering wheel, with its own pair of displays, then a curved glass display screen and finally a full-surface augmented reality head-up display on the windscreen.

The car monitors everything from the road speed, the revs, the driver’s heart rate and the amount of Boost+ available, and the right time to push the button.

The original M1

The M1 of 1978 was BMW’s first ever mid-engined car. Picture: SUPPLIED
The M1 of 1978 was BMW’s first ever mid-engined car. Picture: SUPPLIED

The M1 leapt to fame through the one-make Procar championship, featuring contemporary Formula One drivers and following the European legs of the world championship.

With a fibreglass body designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the M1 started in 1978, but it was all over three years later with just 453 of them made.

It was BMW’s first ever mid-engined car and if the Vision M Next gets built it would be the third (after the i8).

The tubular steel spaceframe delivered a 1,300kg sports car, with a fuel-injected straight six ahead of the rear axle. The engine, designed by legendary designer Paul Rosche, had 204kW and gave the M1 a top speed of 260km/h.