CarBuzz divers looking for pearls in trademark office databases have found another one, or two, depending on how you see it: BMW appealed to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and to Germany’s Deutsches Patent und Markenamt (DPMA) office to reserve the term ‘iM3.’ Everyone’s best guess is that this will be the name of the electric M3 that further breaks open the Neue Klasse era that begins with the next-generation X3 SUV and i3 sedan due in 2025.
Based on a report from September, the new trademark applications fall in line with a raft of other requests covering all manner of BMW products. Citing public paperwork and anonymous company insiders, British magazine Car wrote BMW’s plan to continue selling combustion-, electricity- and possibly hydrogen-powered variants of the same model requires a way to tell the powertrains apart. Gasoline-powered models will get a naming structure that consists of “X3” followed by two numbers, electric models will follow the same system but receive the “i” prefix. Assuming this is what happens, there’d be an X3 and an iX3, an M3 and an iM3.
To those headed for the exit at the talk of an electric M3, M boss Frank van Meel says, “I respect that,” and wishes you well. M development chief Frank Weber supported the stance in telling Autocar about M customers, “Some come to me and say ‘No, the M guys don’t want this.’ I say no, be careful, because we do a lot of customer studies here. M customers want, simply, the best and highest performance you can get.” However, the gas-powered M3 is expected to remain on sale until 2030 or so.
The one word describing BMW’s performance target for what we’re going to call the iM3 is: “Crazy,” as when van Meel said of his expectations for the coming products, “They will be so groundbreaking that you will say: ‘This is crazy, I didn’t see that coming.'” One enabler will be the “Heart of Joy” controller, the highly advanced offspring of the “Hand of God” controller BMW put in the i8. The Heart is an ECU containing a database of roughly 30 years of M’s knowledge of dynamics and handling. “It’s almost the history of how you control a vehicle that is in that thing,” he said. “Everything that is driving-performance related, chassis-control related, propulsion- [and] powertrain-related is now in one integrated control unit.” This single unit in direct communication with wheel motors can translate dynamic commands up to 10 times faster than the current system of multiple ECUs communicating with one another.
So what should we expect? It’s impossible to know for sure, but the ceiling is high. Last year, BMW revealed it’s testing a quad-motor powertrain (pictured) making a combined megawatt of output, translating to 1,341 American horsepower. Talking about that prototype to CarSales last year, Weber said, “This [the M3] can also be the dual-motor architecture, and this can be four-motor architecture with four 250kW motors for up to one megawatt.” We don’t expect an M3 with four-figure horsepower; BMW Blog cites its sources for a predicted output of around 700 horsepower in the M3 EV. We’re a few years away from knowing, the M3 anticipated to debut not long after 3 Series production starts, and hit the market around 2027.