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by Tim Beissmann

BMW will launch a new range of sports cars to sit between its standard range and its high-performance M line-up.

The first vehicles in the new BMW M Performance Automobiles range will be revealed at the 2012 Geneva motor show on March 8, specifically targeting drivers who want the enhanced performance and emotion of a BMW M car without sacrificing the practicality and comfort of the mainstream products.

BMW Australia’s Piers Scott told CarAdvice an X6 variant – believed to be called the X6 M50d – would be the first M Performance Automobiles model in Australia, destined to launch locally in either the second or third quarter of this year.

BMW M GmbH president Dr Friedrich Nitschke said the BMW M Performance Automobiles line-up would include “a wide variety of model series, as well as both petrol- and diesel-engined variants”. BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system will play a key role in enhancing the performance of the M Performance Automobiles range, along with a number of exclusive engine variants.

 

The BMW X6 M50d is expected to be joined at Geneva by a 5-Series-based variant – dubbed the BMW M550d – and potentially other models.

Reports suggest both vehicles will feature a three-stage turbocharged six-cylinder engine producing approximately 283kW of power and up to 740Nm of torque, with the X6 variant potentially sprinting from 0-100km/h in under five seconds.

Scott said there were question marks hanging over the 5-Series variants for our market, however. He said if it was produced in all-wheel drive it would not be produced in right-hand drive – at least initially.

He suggested an M Performance Automobiles version of the X5 was likely, given its “virtually identical production format” to the X6, and also said he believed there was a market for a performance vehicle to sit below the M6.

Scott said further down the track we could expect a series of “hot hatches” and “compact sports coupes”, likely to be based on the 1-Series and 3-Series model ranges. He said not all M Performance Automobiles would necessarily feature all-wheel drive, with rear-wheel drive potentially favoured for some, depending on the vehicle.

Australia has one of the highest proportions of BMW M sales in the world, with M cars accounting for 2.9 per cent of local BMW sales in 2010 and 2011. Scott said the volume of customers and enthusiasts who specced-up and enhanced their vehicles was an indication of the potential demand for the new M Performance Automobiles range in Australia.




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