Over the past six months we ‘ve heard rumors of several “near ” M cars that have been undergoing testing. Today we have our first official confirmation from M themselves. “The BMW M Performance Automobiles ” will span the range from the X6 and 6 Series Gran coupe all the way down to the much rumored M135i. The idea is simple, bring near M levels of performance to cars with better every day drive-ability. Sounds a little like the E46 ZHP, or the “IS ” models doesn ‘t it?

The first involved a tri-turbo diesel engine stuffed under the hood first in an X6 (the X6 M550d) and eventually in the 5 Series and the new 6 Series Gran Coupe. The engine, rumored to deliver 381 hp and 516 lb-ft., would be M ‘s first diesel product in their long storied history. And to us the real story with this car is the engine. BMW M has always been known as the master of petrol performance and has rarely ever (if ever) dabbled in diesel. Alpina, has produced and continues to produce some legendary diesel engines and of course Audi and Peugeot have had storied race careers with oil burners. M getting into the diesel business is big news, whether it ever leads to a pure M diesel or not.

But the plans don ‘t stop there. According to our sources BMW M is also working on a N55 powered 320 hp M135i. With suspension tweaked from the standard sport suspension, news wheels, steering and more power, the M135i will bridge the gap between the 135i and the now rather mythical 1M. But perhaps more importantly it ‘ll not be limited and will cost less than the previous baby M car.

So are these real M cars? Given what we ‘d know the answer is no. But that shouldn ‘t limit your excitement. This is M trying to bring it ‘s magic to cars that are more affordable, more efficient and easier every day drivers – while not sacrificing sacred badges like the M5 or M3.

The first US model is expected to be the refreshed Z435is which will be rebadged as a Z4 M35i when it makes it ‘s debut in 2014.

Official Release

In spring 2012, BMW M GmbH will unveil a new product range for drivers seeking a particularly sporty driving experience, yet who also value the familiar comfort and practicality of BMW models. The BMW M Performance Automobiles offer exclusive engine variants, noticeably enhanced agility and outstanding precision on the road, plus design laced with emotional appeal. The harmonious interplay of engine output, power transfer, chassis technology and aerodynamic balance provides a captivating showcase for the familiar M genes – in day-to-day driving and beyond. The BMW M Performance Automobiles will be presented to the global public for the first time at the International Geneva Motor Show 2012 which takes place from 8 – 18 March.

The BMW M Performance Automobiles represent a totally new model category none of its rivals can offer. Only the high-performance sports cars from BMW M GmbH provide a more convincing execution of an overall concept focused on inspirational driving dynamics. “We are targeting our efforts at customers looking for more emotionality and more performance, but who don’t want to forgo the everyday usability of their cars,” said Dr Friedrich Nitschke, President of BMW M GmbH. Nitschke announced plans for further additions to the new product line-up, referring to “a range including a wide variety of model series, as well as both petrol and diesel-engined variants”. The intelligent all-wheel-drive system BMW xDrive would also play a significant role in the BMW M Performance Automobiles, he added.

2011 will go down as one of the most successful years for BMW M GmbH since the company was founded. In addition to the BMW 1 Series M Coupe, which marked BMW M GmbH’s first ever foray into the premium compact segment, last year also saw the successful introduction of the new BMW M5. The imminent arrival of the BMW M Performance Automobiles provides 2012 – which will also feature the world premiere of the new BMW M6, among others – with an early highlight.

“The BMW M Performance Automobiles benefit from the full expertise of BMW M GmbH,” explained Nitschke. The BMW Group subsidiary can call on decades of motor sport experience when it comes to translating outstanding engine power into excellent dynamics. This development expertise also imbues the BMW M Performance Automobiles with their distinctive character.

The models in the new product category follow in the tyre tracks of the BMW M535i, which was unveiled in 1980 and went on to capture the hearts of performance-minded customers with its extra power, precisely tuned chassis technology and subtly modified design. A fresh addition to the BMW 5 Series ranks, the Sedan remained a highly successful member of the line-up through two model generations and – up to 1987 – with the BMW M5 for company within the range. “Our aim with the BMW M Performance Automobiles is to continue this tradition,” confirmed Nitschke.