The Vision M Next concept will be a standalone sports car as spiritual successor to the M1 of 1978. Picture: MARK SMYTH
The Vision M Next concept will be a standalone sports car as spiritual successor to the M1 of 1978. Picture: MARK SMYTH

It was a very well choreographed show as cars zoomed across the stage, often weaving between each other. A couple of times the back stepped out just a touch on a large coupe but it was controlled in a way that showed not just the expertise of the drivers but the many times this had undoubtedly been rehearsed.

Most car reveals involve just that, a car, but in the customer delivery area of the BMW Welt (World) in Munich, we got the first chance to see six new models wearing the famous roundel, most of which are heading to SA, although some much later than others.

The headline act was the Vision M Next concept, which is to be a standalone sports car as spiritual successor to the BMW M1 of 1978. The concept car uses plug-in hybrid power to switch between rear- and all-wheel drive, with a turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine and a big electric motor delivering a combined 441kW, giving it a 300km/h top speed and a claimed 0-100km/h time of three seconds.

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Then there was the BMW Motorrad Vision DC Roadster, which you can read about elsewhere in this edition.

Don’t expect either of those in your local showroom anytime soon but there are a number of new models you will see, particularly from the brand’s performance M division.

These included the new 1 Series which we will be driving in Europe next week. It continues to evolve and the styling is certainly more edgy in many respects than previous generations. It’s not the only 1 heading our way, and we also had our first look in the metal of the new X1 crossover. This too has evolved into something far more appealing than its early renditions and will have some people wondering if they need an X3 as the downsizing trend continues.

One that got us excited but sadly won’t be heading to SA is the new 3 Series Touring. It continues to baffle us why we don’t buy station wagons even when they look as good as the new Touring and offer such versatility and practicality.

Then there was the new 8 Series which gets not one but three new models. The new M8 was shown in the metal for the first time as both a coupe and a convertible. Normally reserved for a year into a new model’s life cycle, BMW has also announced the M8 Competition models will go on sale straight away too. And then there was the 8 Series Gran Coupe, a four-door model that offers an extra dose of practicality. All of these are heading to SA in the coming months.

The new 1 Series, which we will drive at the international launch next week. Picture: MARK SMYTH
The new 1 Series, which we will drive at the international launch next week. Picture: MARK SMYTH

But just what is the future for M and where does that new Vision M Next fit into it all? We spoke to Markus Flasch, head of BMW M who told us: “We don’t have to be the first to bring technology to market, we have to be the best.”

“The character that we try to tune into an M car you must feel in the first corner,” he told us, citing the M2 as the one that not only does this best but is widely acknowledged as everyone’s favourite M car.

However he points out that favourite means different things to different people. Love or loathe models like the X5M, Flasch says that for those who need an SUV but want performance, it makes sense and the division is trying to cater for everyone.

“At M we can always go a little beside the mainstream” he says, adding that this strategy will continue in the future.

Flasch says he doesn’t have specific targets, not like the main passenger cars, but electrification will be a step for the performance brand. He is promising mild hybrid, full hybrid and even battery electric vehicles but stresses that “we only bring technology if it is better than the last.”

It’s a very logical approach to a brand that is as much about passion as business. Things will get tougher for M in the future as regulators demand not just lower emissions but less noise and even limits to performance.

Flasch might not have the pressure others in BMW and the automotive industry have right now, but there’s no doubt the business of M will have to change. If the Vision M Next concept is anything to go by, then change is not such a bad thing.