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BMW M3 to move to turbo six; 1-Series M green lighted

Facing increasingly strict emissions regulations in Europe and stringent fuel economy standards in North America, BMW confirmed late yesterday that its next-generation M3 will be powered by a turbocharged six-cylinder engine rather than the V8 currently under the high-performance 3-Series' hood. BMW's M Group boss also hinted that the next-generation 1-Series will indeed offer an E30 M3-inspired M variant.

According to Motor Trend, BMW's M Group CEO, Ludwig Willisch, told a media roundtable that the next-generation M3, due in about 2013, will be forced to move to a high-power turbocharged six-cylinder. The M3, initially offered with a four-cylinder in its first iteration, was powered by a high-performance six-cylinder motor for its second and third generations, but the current M3 is powered by a 4.0-liter V8 based on the M5's V10.

Willisch wouldn't confirm if it will be a single or twin-turbo powerplant powering the next M3, but he did say that the engine will not be based on the 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline-six currently used in the 335i. BMW is apparently considering a V6, according to Willisch, who said that the V-configuration would yield a more compact engine that could be butted up against the firewall. He also indicated that the next-generation M3 might not be more powerful than the current, 414-horsepower car. The next-generation M3 will shed some weight and gain a more flexible powertrain.

Willisch also confirmed our earlier report that the next-generation 1-Series will offer a high-performance, M-designed model. Though it isn't expected to be called M1, the 1-Series M will, at least in BMW's eyes, reincarnate the first-generation "E30" M3 offered in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Expect power to hover in the 300-horsepower range thanks to a turbocharged four-cylinder.

It's expected that the M5 will also move down to a high-power six-cylinder or a V8.