Sparesbox Blog

BMW M Division: 4-cylinders doesn’t cut it

By Liam Ridings

Fri Sep 22 2017

BMW have scoffed at the likes of the Mercedes-Benz AMG A45, Ford Focus RS and Audi S3 in declaring that modern, 4-cylinder turbocharged engines won’t be accompanied by an M Division badge anytime soon.

BMW M Division Chief, Frank van Meel, said that today’s 4-cylinder engines aren’t up to par with the performance offered by the current generation of BMW M Cars.

“We are really happy with our 6-cylinder [engines] because for BMW and BMW M that is our heritage engine. We started with 6-cylinder in the M1 so it has a long history. BMW is a 6-cylinder inline company and, for us, it’s an iconic engine,” said Van Meel.

BMW’s halo hot hatch, the BMW M140i Performance utilises a 3.0-litre turbocharged straight six engine that dispenses a healthy 250kW/500Nm and accelerates to 100km/h in 4.6sec. When you compare that to the Mercedes-Benz AMG A45 that puts out 280kW/475Nm and sprints to 100km/h in 4.2 seconds, it’s hard to see what Van Meel is on about when he labels 4-cylinder engines inadequate.

So then, what is the argument? Well, there’s no doubt that the turbocharged 6-cylinder engine sounds impressive, but is it more impressive than the crackles and pops from the new Focus RS or Mercedes-Benz AMG A45? Hard to say. Sound is purely subjective, so let’s stick to the facts.

The BMW M140i returns an ADR combined fuel economy 7.8L per 100km, compared to the AMG A45 which returns 7.3L per 100km and the Ford Focus RS which returns 7.7L per 100km. So, the BMW M140i is still playing in the same ballpark despite the addition of two extra cylinders- in a world of eco warriors pushing for the demise of six and eight-cylinder engines, this is no small feat.

Van Meel didn’t discount the possibility of an electronically assisted 4-cylinder turbocharged engine down the line, but cautiously noted the drawback with the current generation of E-performance cars.

“With the current generation we see ‘E’ motors that are still not strong enough for M applications, and if you look at plug-in hybrids, it will add 2-300kg – which, for a car like an M3/M4 with 1500kg – would put that completely out of balance and we couldn’t re-balance that towards a typical M philosophy.”

BMW CEO Harald Krueger pointed out earlier this month, no BMW will be immune to electrification in the future with long term plans to add electronic assistance motors to all BMW vehicles.