Exclusive: BMW M’s Matt Russell says those expecting an 8-Series, the 6-Series fulfills the same mission

So far, Russell disproved that the rumors regarding whether BMW will produce a supercar to compete with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, the Audi R8 and the Lexus LFA, because BMW doesn’t feel the need to produce a car on that level. That’s because it wouldn’t exactly make a feasible business case to make papa corporate BMW happy—for whatever reason.

As a refresher, some of you may remember that BMW had once produced a very super exclusive GT car, the E31 8-Series, which debuted in 1989. At that time, the 8-Series was way ahead of its time and it was something that would be called a technological showcase. It was a car that fully embodied the corporate philosophy of the Roundel while also showcasing the direction that BMW was taking with their automobiles. Jam-packed with all sorts of new technology, the BMW 8-Series was a very important car for the brand and represented their move forward into the 1990s. It was their massive leap forward. That said, I pointed this out to Matt Russell and asked him, what if BMW took the same approach with a new supercar like they did with the 8-Series?

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In his response, Russell said: “That’s a really fair question and I love it. The BMW 8-Series is something that I’m very passionate about and it definitely was a technology and style showcase. If I remember correctly, the ad slogan for the 8-Series was: ‘If a car company can have a soul, this is ours,’ and that’s something I’ll never forget. But in our product lineup, the 8-Series was technically succeeded and replaced by the 6-Series, several years after the 8 ended production in 1999. That said, we feel the 6-Series does a great job at fulfilling the same mission of the 8-Series, as being a head-turner and a luxurious two-plus-two very well,” Russell explained. “Obviously with technology and the advancement of time, for instance, the 650i drives much better than the top-of-the-line 850CSi from 1995—it’s just the sad fact and reality of time as we move on.”

Ever since the 8-Series was finally placed in the pages of history in 1999, rumors still floated about regarding an 8-Series successor, which coincided with the rumors of a BMW supercar that would be similar to the concept of the M8 Prototype, BMW M’s attempt at the ultimate 8-Series at the time. But after what Russell said, he explained that we’ve essentially had a successor to the M8 Prototype.

“The M8 is a car I’ve loved ever since I knew BMWs. But today, there’s the M6, a car that we truly think, fills the mission of the M8 Prototype. There’s absolutely no question about it. However, we won’t be talking about the new M6 probably until the first quarter of 2012. But, there is a new M6, you all have seen it in testing and development. If anything, this new M6 really is a modern day interpretation and as good of an M8-type car as the original concept. It should answer all of the questions anyone has about a BMW supercar.”

Obviously though, unlike the original M8 Prototype, which had a completely reworked version of the brand’s at the time S70 V12—the same engine design that served as a starting point for the McLaren F1’s V12 (though Russell clearly pointed out, they are not exactly the same)—the M6 for the second generation had the E60 M5’s S85 Formula 1-derived V10. Despite the engine differences, Russell still spoke passionately about V12s while discussing the M6 carrying the same mission as the M8 Prototype.

“I love V12s. I think we have one of the best V12s in the industry right now, and I’d love a chance to put that engine in other cars, especially M-bred cars. However, our mission now, both BMW and M, is to increase performance while we increase efficiency. It’s an overriding mission for the company—to not be wasteful, and that’s why the new M5 is 30% more efficient while being 10% more powerful than the outgoing one. That said, it wouldn’t make a case to put a V12 in another car at this time.”

Though Matt was not able to talk much about the new M6 as he said that BMW was first focusing on the release of the standard 6-Series. But it is safe to assume from the previous M6, which had its 5.0L V10 and 7-speed SMG cog swapper carried over from the E60 M5, will do the same for this new generation and utilize the new F10 M5’s 4.4L TwinPower twin-turbocharged V8.

“Our thing that we do better than anyone else is front-engined, rear-wheel drive. They are the best [front-engined, rear-wheel drive] cars in the world as far as I’m concerned, dynamically speaking and ergonomically. If we did a supercar, would it need to be mid-engined? I don’t think so at all. I think that our front-engined and rear-drive dynamics are so good that we could stick with that formula. I love the fact that our cars are the best drift cars from the factory in the world and I’m convinced that they are. And the press have backed me up on that. We have that ability and I don’t ever want to lose that. I love the fact that you can work on car control skills in our cars, better than any other. So I’m really sold on the formula and concept of the front-engine and rear-wheel drive layout.”

I was able to speak very passionately with Matt about his love for the M-Division and its history with the utmost praise through this topic. A key to further easing my fear that nearly all car companies will turn into soulless corporate bean counters, especially the one of the few brands that continues to be supportive of the enthusiast. But my fear was only relieved to tension. Russell also emphasized that if he had the choice, he would let his engineers and boffins at the M-Division go buck wild to produce all of the mad machines demanded by the whims of both the engineers and the enthusiasts. But, he understandably and simply pointed out, there’s a cap for everything. BMW has to have a real reason to produce a certain car, it would have to prove to be a worthy business case. And he said this while discussing the possibility of a 1-Series M-Coupe successor for the next generation of 1-Series.

As per my interpretation, I am very much a BMW enthusiast myself so I’m familiar with the demands of the enthusiasts and their scrutiny of the brand. But I felt that Russell is not the one to blame if one were to criticize the brand. He is very much in touch with the BMW M as us enthusiasts are. And really, he was giving me an encouraging message to extend to all of you who want BMW M to make a car like the ones we’ve discussed, be it a 1-Series M-Coupe or a halo R8/LFA/SLS competitor a la the 8. And make sure you read this clearly: SCREAM LOUDER.

– By: Chris Chin

Chris Chin

Chris Chin is the Editor-In-Chief of egmCarTech and is a regular contributor to Automobile Magazine.

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