Despite the idea being repeatedly shot down in public, rumours out of Munich about a supercar from BMW’s M performance division to crush the Porsche 911 Turbo, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG and Audi R8 just keep getting stronger.
And there’s now a timeline, with senior sources at M insisting it is working towards having a ground-breaking mid-engined twin-turbo V8-powered hypercar sitting atop its family tree by 2016.
The M8, as senior sources at BMW’s Haus of Speed have already dubbed the car, would be based around the carbon-fibre chassis of the all-new i8 eco sports car
, but with a target power output of around 480-500kW.
There is also talk that M is considering keeping the i8’s electric motors for the front axle, which would give it unprecedented scope for torque vectoring and all manner of computer-controlled mid-corner adjustment, not to mention extra torque to punch out of bends.
Yet our sources suggest that the simplicity and lighter weight of a rear-drive supercar makes pure petrol power far more likely, along with the i8 technology lifting the M8’s cost to a level the BMW badge can’t carry.
With the i8’s extensive complexity and lithium-ion batteries ditched in favour of an olde worlde fuel tank, the M8 could hit the streets pulling weight less than a 135i, giving it by far the best power-to-weight ratio of any BMW-badged street car.
The structure of the M8, with a carbon-fibre body and tub, plus aluminium subframes at both ends and plenty of aluminium, magnesium and titanium in everything from the dash frame to the exhaust setup, lends itself to a weight of around 1400kg, even with the thermal demands of the twin-turbo set-up taken care of.
Sources say the tweaked engine, based around the V8 that powers the M5 and M6, will be matched to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission and drive through an evolution of BMW’s electro/mechanical differential.
The M8 would add much-needed fire to a brand slightly sagging under the weight of luxury demands. A tyre-shredding, carbon-fibre, sleekly-styled Ferrari basher with 0-100km/h times in the low-three-second bracket and a 300km/h-plus top speed is just what M car dreams are made of.
But while M boss Freidrich Nitschke is publicly quiet but privately salivating at the prospect of having a genuine supercar to add sparkle at the head of a line-up of increasingly hefty highway blasters, not everyone at BMW is in love with the M8.
In particular, BMW boss Norbert Reithofer hates the idea. He has used most of his political capital at BMW to personally drive both the i3 and the i8 programs into production and isn’t keen on either of them being adulterated.
Just as BMW’s development boss, Dr Herbert Diess, last week admitted his team had never even tried fitting one of BMW’s upcoming three-cylinder turbo motors into the back of the electric i3, BMW officially claims nobody has ever fitted an i8 prototype with a twin-turbo V8.
Yet talk of the M8 won’t die down, even from senior M sources and even though many of BMW’s most senior managers today were involved in the M1 supercar program that gained the brand enormous credibility at the expense of very low volumes.
The most senior M sources we spoke to said the M8 would have to lose the i8’s rear seat capability to become a strict two-seater, because there was nowhere else in the car’s layout that could fit the 4.4-litre V8.
Don’t expect the M8 to be cheap – somewhere north of $A500,000 – but if BMW is looking for a centenary anniversary present in 2016, this could be it.
M just needs Reithofer not to kill it before it can be seen in the flesh at a motor show somewhere, because M is hoping to ride a wave of public demand to put it into production, even at a limited rate of only 100 cars a year.
Read the latest news and reviews on your mobile, iPhone or PDA at carsales' mobile site...