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2017 Frankfurt Motor Show: BMW pushes greater driving fun

By Nathan Ponchard, 13 Sep 2017 Events

2017 Frankfurt Motor Show: BMW pushes greater driving fun

Fear not. BMW’s R&D chief Klaus Fröhlich is one of us

Former chief engineer and now BMW board member, Klaus Fröhlich, doesn’t mince words. He’s a self-confessed “car guy” who “hates understeer”.

He’s also partly responsible for the luscious BMW M2, so when we hear words like “crisp” and “pure” being used to describe the dynamics of BMW product, we’re just a little bit aroused.

Amidst the electro-mobility hype of BMW’s promised 25 electrified vehicles by 2025 – 12 of which will be full electric – it’s Fröhlich’s enthusiasm for the joy of driving that gives hope there’s plenty of ‘ultimate driving machine’ flavour left in the Bavarian marque.

He reckons the third-generation Z4 – with its lighter fabric top and re-jigged proportions – is going to be a pretty sweet piece of kit. “I like it personally because it drives like it looks,” says Fröhlich. “This architecture [co-developed with Toyota and shared with its forthcoming Supra] is really good and the Z4 will drive sensational. I’m very happy [with it].”

It’s his passion for the M2, however, that gives hope that this M-car gem’s successor won’t lose any of its driving purity.

“I wanted to make the 3 and 4 Series more crisp, so that’s why we did the M2… for me it’s very important that the cars are precise. It was so important for me to have a fun-to-drive car, even in normal driving – not only on the racetrack – and it should be affordable. Not a high-tech, super-techy thing but an honest sports car.”

As for rumours BMW’s next-gen 2 Series (and, as a by-product, the M2) may no longer be rear-drive, Fröhlich quickly raises the “future product” flag, meaning he’s not meant to talk about it. But…

“…I was very interested to make a pure M2 and I think it’s such a good car, a success in the market – we can’t build enough cars – and we are running out of engines at the moment, so I think it will be a very good idea to continue that legacy.”

Yet as any true motoring enthusiast knows, there’s fun to be had at all speeds. So it’s heartening to discover that the slightly warmed-up BMW i3S contains a subtle dynamic ‘Easter egg’ that hasn’t really been talked about.

Running 40mm-wider tracks at both ends, 20mm-wider tyres and a mild 10kW/20Nm boost over the standard i3, Fröhlich reckons the S version is all about sweetness and light.

“The i3 is a very balanced car – low rolling resistance, light weight – [yet] the requirements to a BMW drivetrain are always the same. You want to have responsiveness, you want to have boost, torque and performance, and also efficiency. And things do not change significantly if you have an electric car.

“On this i3S we have developed an anti-slip control which is 100 times faster than the slip controls we have so far. So in less than one millisecond it can react. You have a control system as an e-motor, which is very simple, so for example with this i3S, with the slip control you can give [it] ‘pedal to the metal’ and it’s drifting just a little bit of oversteer at exactly the limit of traction. Because you don’t feel the traction-control impulses anymore.”

Humans can’t feel one millisecond, unfortunately. But they can tell when something feels good.