Inside Line Q&A: BMW M Vice President Gerhard Richter The M Power Strikes Back How would you define the role of the M3 in the BMW M range? The M3 stands for our philosophy. It is the best representation of the M character, combining the feeling of a racecar with that of a normal street car. We concentrate on what we call "concept harmony," by which we mean that we look at the car as a whole. This is what separates us from everyone else. How difficult has it been to replace the old inline-6 engine with a V8? It was not so easy. The six-cylinder is the traditional engine for an M3. But the old engine had reached its limits. We had to develop an all-new engine and it made sense to design a V8. For fans of the six-cylinder engine, we have the M Coupe. This is our entry-level M model. Will there be a new version of the lightweight M3 CSL? We built the last M3 CSL to test how many euros customers are willing to pay for less weight. For 20 years, they've learnt to pay for more power, not less weight. The reaction to the CSL was very positive and you will already see in the new M3 that we've spent a lot of money bringing down the weight. The last M3 CSL was very successful and fun to drive. From now on, there will always be a CSL version of the M3. The M3 has grown up, both in terms of size and price. Is there room for a smaller, entry-level M car, based around the new 1 Series coupe available in Europe? Theoretically, yes. A 1 Series coupe would be a good base for such a car, but there has been no decision yet. It is true that the M3 has grown over several generations and the latest car is a similar length to an old 5 Series. But we also have the M Coupe for those who want a small car that concentrates on driving fun. How do you decide which engine to develop for each car? We're looking for the best performance for the type of car. For the M5 and M6 we use a V10, and for the M3 we use a V8. If you only develop one engine for all your cars, then you cannot have the perfect car. If the engine in the smaller car is too big, you will not have the right harmony. What are your main targets when developing a new model? We concentrate on several targets — high revs, lower fuel consumption. There are lots of targets but our main target is that the car must be fun to drive. Raw horsepower is not as important as how agile the car is and how the driver feels. The power-to-weight figure is the most important figure — more horsepower and lower weight equals more agility. Will we see alternative engine technologies in the future, such as diesel? When a diesel is able to achieve high revs, why not use it? But for now it's not possible. We need that special, high-revving character in an M engine. It's not enough just to increase the boost pressure [of the turbo]. We need to change the character of the car. What about a hybrid? We already have a brake-energy regeneration system in the new M3, but it's not our target to put 100 kilograms [220 pounds] of batteries in our car. We need much smarter hybrid technology. Or turbocharging? Maybe in the future. In 2011, the F1 racing regulations could change to introduce turbocharging. If we were able to bring our character together with a turbo engine, then why not? Formula 1 is very important for us; BMW M's heritage is in motorsport. Changes in the F1 regulations might be good for us. If the change fits with the M character, it could be a solution. The most important thing for the customer is to have this special character. Or hydrogen? Maybe in 15 years time. It's important to remember that the car is only 100 years old and technology moves very fast. The new M3 engine has 17 percent more horsepower than the old, but it has 7 percent less weight and 8 percent lower fuel consumption. This is one of the most efficient V8s on the market. What do you see as the key rivals for the M cars? The characters of our rivals' cars are so different that customers can find the right car for them. The Porsche is a Porsche — very successful and fun to drive. And when people think of Porsche they think of the 911 — a modern-day Beetle. (laughs) Audi Quattro Gmbh uses front- or four-wheel drive, and so the handling is quite different. It's a good solution if you live in the mountains. Mercedes AMG uses a relatively low-revving big-block engine and an automatic gearbox. Every car is different. AMG has recently started to offer a limited run of tuned cars called Black Series. Can we expect a similar range from BMW? This is not our philosophy. The Black Series is a way of trying to change the character of the cars, but we wouldn't do this because we have a clear idea of what our cars need to be. We have a personalization program — Individual — which caters to owners with special tastes, but these changes would never affect the driving characteristics of an M car. Audi recently introduced the R8 to much acclaim. Will BMW build a supercar? That's a very difficult question to answer. A car like the Porsche Carrera GT could reflect our character, but the Carrera GT was not a commercial success. Below this supercar level, anything we could offer would just be on a level with the M3 or M6. We could build a car that used the technical aspects of the M3 or M6 but clothe it in a new body, but such a car would be more expensive and no more fun to drive. That is the reason why we're hesitant to build such a car, although as an engineer I'd love to do it. If you build a €1 million supercar, no one will ever have the chance to see it. For us it's better to make an M3 or M6, where the price is OK. Inside Line Q&A: BMW M Vice President Gerhard Richter I'll give it to him, he has the company line down pat, thing is I believe him to be sincere for the most part. I don't care much for his take on the AMG Black Series cars, but that is to be expected. I do like his reply concerning hybrids though! My favorite M5 is the 2nd generation model, 2nd from the left. The one with the big ole hairy I6. Forgive me I'm having a moment seeing this car again.