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Here’s why BMW M believes going all-wheel drive is inevitable

Historically, BMW’s M-badged road rockets have always been rear-wheel drive. That could soon change as the company is on the brink of launching new, more powerful models that require the extra traction added by all-wheel drive.

The news comes directly from Frank van Meel, the head of BMW’s M division. He pointed out that BMW’s M-badged models are becoming increasingly powerful year after year; in fact, rumors indicate the next-generation M5 will break the 600-horsepower barrier for the first time ever. Putting that much power to the ground is easier said than done, especially in markets like Canada and Switzerland where motorists often encounter snow and ice.

Van Meel explained that engineers are going to great lengths to increase traction with electronic driving aids such as torque vectoring systems and stability control systems, but resorting to all-wheel drive is “inevitable” in the long run. The man knows a thing or two about performance-focused all-wheel drive setups because he previously ran Audi’s quattro division.

Consequently, M won’t simply grab the xDrive all-wheel drive system from BMW’s parts bin and bolt it to a M3 or a M5. The company will instead develop a unique all-wheel-drive system that will send the engine’s full output to the rear wheels under normal conditions, and only transfer torque to the front axle if it detects a need for more grip. The system might be christened 2+2WD to emphasize its rear-biased nature.

Some sources — including British magazine Autocar — believe that the next M5 will exclusively be available with rear-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive won’t arrive for another couple of years. However, other publications speculate that the upcoming sixth-generation M5 will be the first iteration of the vaunted nameplate to ship with all-wheel drive. The system will be available as an extra-cost option in Europe, but it will be the only configuration offered in the United States, according to enthusiast website BMW Blog.

Read more: BMW’s third-gen X5 could get axed after just four years on the market

BMW is keeping its lips sealed for the time being. We’ll get a better idea of which BMW M models will get all-wheel drive when the next-generation M5 makes its debut at next year’s edition of the Geneva Auto Show.