By Drew Johnson
Monday, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 11:37 am
 

BMW is said to be developing a new 1-Series M sedan to take on upcoming rivals from Mercedes-Benz and Audi. The new model would also give BMW a new entry point into its M performance sedan range.

According to Autocar, BMW is developing a new four-door M-variant of its 1-Series range. The new model is intended to take on the upcoming Mercedes-Benz CLA45 and Audi S3 sedan.

BMW has offered M versions of its 1-Series in coupe and hatch forms, but never as a sedan.

In addition to giving BMW better footing against its German rivals, the 1-Series M sedan would also give BMW a cheaper model to complement its current M3 and M5 offerings.

"There has been a wholesale shift in the market," an inside source told Autocar. "Our traditional M models -- the M3 and M5 -- have become a good deal larger, a lot more powerful, better equipped and naturally more expensive over the years. They still sell in solid numbers, but it is time to concentrate on the more affordable end of the performance range."

However, the exact direction of the new M model remains unknown at this point, with two strategies still in play.

BMW could decided to use a version of the rear-wheel drive architecture that underpins the current 1-Series for the new M sedan. That would give the sedan optimal weight distribution, but would limit interior packaging. However, given the rear-wheel drive 1-Series shares most of its components with the 3-Series, going the RWD route could save BMW significant development time.

BMW's other option is to utilize its latest front-wheel drive UKL architecture. Set to underpin the next-generation 1-Series along with most MINI models, the UKL platform is said to be about 15 percent less expensive to produce than a typical rear-wheel drive car and would also allow for greater interior space. UKL was also designed to accommodate all-wheel drive, which would eliminated some of the concerns associated with a high-horsepower front-wheel drive car.

Whatever the case, the 1-Series M sedan will make use of a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder developing at least 300 horsepower. In addition to offering improved fuel economy, the four-cylinder will create a clear path to the upcoming six-cylinder M3 and V8-powered M5.

BMW could hire and outside firm to speed the development of its latest M sedan, but the hot four-door isn't expected until 2015 at the earliest.