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BMW is working on an electric M5 – but at the expense of an i8 replacement

The BMW i8 was way ahead of its time. A proper PHEV supercar, even today the early gen cars' technology stands up to scrutiny against newer PHEVs. Alas, it isn't destined to be replaced – the Vision M Next project having been quietly canned. But don't despair; an electric M5 is on its way.

BMW Blog has reported that the Vision M Next may well have been surreptitiously cancelled. Thought to be a natural successor to the i8, the supercar was revealed to the world in concept form last June at the brand's #NEXTGEN event.

To look at it had great promise, with design elements of the M1 – BMW's first supercar – built into the distinctive, retro-modern body shapes. BMW called it a “modern interpretation of classic BMW icons”, and among other details it featured a deep turbine-style kidney grille, Hofmeister kink, M1-style louvred rear screen and 2002 Turbo-style rear lights.

Under the skin, BMW was touting a new PHEV powertrain offering 591bhp, 186mph and a 0-62mph time of around three seconds. Two- or four-wheel drive options were also being promised by the brand.

BMW Blog cites both its own sources inside BMW and a German magazine (Manager-Magazin) as confirming that the project has actually been kaput for a while now. The reasons it gives for the cancellation of the project tally up with what we know, too. The i8 wasn't exactly a big seller despite its numerous plus-points, so there's no guarantee of BMW ever reaching the sales volume it would need to make money on a very expensive project.

As if there wasn't already a diminished appetite to build a new i8 the coronavirus came along and wiped out a significant chunk of money from the car industry's bottom line. Like many other manufacturers, BMW would seem to have chosen to kill off the vanity project in favour of a greater PHEV range across its volume models, like the new 5 Series that we recently covered.

But there is good news. According to CAR magazine, the next-generation M5 – designated the G60 – will go electric. And our best guess is that BMW will pour its efforts, previously dedicated to the Vision M Next, into the new generation of performance EVs.

What do we know about the M5 EV?

So far, CAR is reporting a few details based on conversations it has had with people within the M Division. First and foremost, the next generation of the M5 will be electrified in two different ways; PHEV and all-electric. The news of PHEV isn't surprising given the way many manufacturers are turning to them for big power.

In the M5's case, it will share the same powertrain as the forthcoming X8 M which means a c. 550bhp V8 and a 200bhp e-motor playing the supporting role. In the giant (and somewhat ghastly) X8 it will be quick; in the M5 it will be faster still.

As for the EV model, it will be a part of BMW's CLAR modular architecture family using Gen V pouch-type batteries. In total, the car is due to have 135kWh of battery capacity – which is huge – and like the Porsche Taycan, will run at 800 volts instead of the more conventional 400. Charging at 400 volts will enable speeds of up to 350kWh to be accepted. Projected range is 435 miles.

Like the new Audi e-tron S, BMW is going down the tri-motor route, with two at the back and one at the front adding up to a gargantuan 1006bhp dispensed through all four wheels. So it'll be brisk.

Due in 2024

Given that BMW is in the process of launching the facelifted version of the current 5 Series we do have to wait a few years before the all-electric M5 comes to fruition. The CLAR-based 7 Series is due out in 2022 at the earliest, so the architecture is due to make its way through the range following this. But it'll be worth waiting for; new M5s always are.

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