Unfortunately, whether we like it or not, electrification is here and it’s quickly taking over the automotive world. The BMW M3 and M4 remain among a shrinking list of enthusiast & driver’s cars that still offer ICE and manual transmissions. What will happen with the next generation M3 and M4, though? Will they stay true to their roots or join the growing world of EV’s? Frank van Meel, head of the BMW M division, recently shared some thoughts on the future of these legendary M cars.
BMW M Stance on Electric M3 & M4
In a recent interview in Australia, Frank van Meel shared a few interesting comments on the possibility of the next gen M3 being pure electric.
Well, the logic is quite easy. The next M3 or M4 has to be better than the current one. And if that can be done in an electric way, then probably it will go electric. If not, we will stay with the combustion engine. It’s quite easy. But of course we’re trying to make that happen as pure electric.Frank van Meel
The comment makes it quite clear what BMW will accomplish with the successor to the G80 M3 and G82 M4. It has to be better. That should come as no surprise considering each generation of the M3 has been faster than the last.
If BMW M can accomplish that with a full EV M3 then it’s likely they will go the full electric route. We should note – BMW already dismissed the possibility of future M cars using only an internal combustion engine. That means the next generation M3 will likely be a hybrid if they cannot accomplish their goals with only electric power.
An EV M3 is Easier Said than Done
Despite BMW’s desire to make a pure-electric M3, Frank van Meel also mentioned a few challenges surrounding an electric M3 and M4.
On the M Performance cars it’s possible because it’s giving more performance to series production cars. But for high performance M models it’s a little bit more complicated because we’re not only building cars that are developed on the race track, actually they should perform on the race track and that’s a little bit more complicated.
Repeatability of performance, thermal management of the battery and motors, and keeping weight as low as possible are key challenges.Frank van Meel
The first comment is in regards to a few M Performance models that are already full EV. However, as Van Meel points out, those are not true BMW M models but rather standard series production cars. They don’t have quite the same performance standards as an M3, M4, M5, etc.
BMW M models are designed with track-use in mind, and that can be very tough on batteries – especially during several hours at the track. That’s beside the point that battery weight is a major issue with EV’s.
It’s not going to be an easy task for BMW M. That’s especially true considering they set the bar pretty high with the current G80 M3 and G82 M4. Beating those cars would essentially require an electric M3 to be the fastest EV in the world. At least based on current EV lap records (more on this in a few moments).
Can BMW Make an Electric M3 Better than the G80?
There are a few key points to this. The term better is subjective and leaves a lot to interpretation. However, we’re positive an electric M3 would need to beat the G80/G82 in a straight line and around the race track. And not just any track. BMW tests their cars on the incredibly grueling and challenging Nürburgring. Let’s look at some Nürburgring lap times:
- E92 M3 – 8:05
- F82 M4 – 7:52
- G82 M4 – 7:28
- Tesla Plaid S – 7:25
The F82 M4 beat the E92 M3 coupe by a respectable 13 seconds. That pales in comparison to the G82 M4 Competition xDrive, which beat its predecessor by a staggering 24 seconds. Point is – each new generation M3 & M4 have become significantly quicker than their predecessor. We’re not just talking about a couple seconds.
Which raises the next point. The absolute rocket ship Tesla Plaid S holds the EV Nürburgring record at 7:25. Essentially, BMW would need to beat the fastest EV on the planet (built by a company that’s specialized in EV’s) in order to be a significant improvement over the G80 M3 and G82 M4.
0-60 and 1/4 mile times are less a concern. It’s no secret that EV’s are incredibly quick since the torque is instant and transmissions are non-existent. However, we believe it’s unlikely BMW M will have good enough EV technology in the next few years to compete with G80 M3 on the race track.
What About Drivability?
When Frank van Meel says the new M3 has to be better that means more than just track and straight line times. It would also need to offer similar or better drivability and that can be challenging without the vibrations, sound, and feedback of an ICE. He was also sure to point out those factors.
So what you do is: you know the gear you’re in and you hear and feel the engine, and from the corner of your eye you can see the shifting lights if you’re approaching maximum revs. So actually, you always know I’m ‘in third gear.’ There’s no need to look down into the speedometer and if you look down two cars pass by you.
So you need that feedback because if you’re driving in an electric car with just one gear, making some kind of sound over seven octaves, you don’t know if you’re in the middle [of the revs] and if that’s the equal to 145km/h or wherever you are. So that actually will not work. And we need a solution for that.
And one of the solutions might be to simulate gears or to have another acoustic feedback or even vibrations as a feedback. And those are things we’re looking into.Frank Van Meel
An engine and transmission offer a lot of drivability benefits. An electric M3 wouldn’t have the same vibrations, sound, and other non-visual cues. The solutions seem fairly straight-forward, but they’re still additional factors that make an electric M3 and M4 challenging.
Then there’s vehicle weight and numerous other factors that could hinder the drivability of an EV M3. It’s a lot of challenges to overcome and the next generation M3 will begin development sooner than later. It seems like too much to figure out in too little time for BMW M to successfully make a fully electric M3 better than the G80.
When Does the Next Generation M3 Come Out?
BMW still doesn’t have any official information or details regarding the release of the next generation M3. However, we do know the G80 M3 is slated to remain in production through June 2027 while the G82 M4 is planned for production until June 2028.
Ultimately, it seems the next generation M3 will debut in 2027 for model year 2028. On the other hand, the M4 will likely debut in 2028 with the first model years coming in 2029. So don’t worry. If you’re not a fan of the idea of an EV M3, we still have a good 4-5 years of the incredible BMW S58 engine in the G80 and G82.
Our Opinion: The Next M3 Will be a Hybrid
As we stated a couple times, it seems unlikely that BMW can exceed the performance of the G80 M3 will an all electric M3. Yes, it will happen one day and likely within the next 10-15 years. However, with the next generation BMW M3 expected in 2028 it seems like a stretch to make an EV better than the M3 or M4.
Four years might sound like plenty of time to make the technological advancements. However, keep in mind, development and the finished product will come sooner. It’s likely the bulk of development would be completed by mid-late 2026 and a decision on EV or hybrid would come much sooner than that.
Since BMW has essentially ruled out the possibility of a gasoline-only M3 then it’s fair to assume the next gen will feature hybrid technology. What are your thoughts on the next M3 and M4? Should they be all electric or hybrid?