I don't think the article is right to say this would be equivalent to Audi's S-Line. Isn't the S-Line usually just an appearance treatment, like M Sport?
Whatever the case though, more importantly I think this has real potential to cannibalize M sales for people who want an "M" car (read: the badge) but don't need an actual harder-core track-oriented weapon. I guess that will make the true M cars more exclusive, but it still somehow bums me out. I expect most people won't be able to differentiate between true Ms and these cars considering that the average person can't tell an M car from a normal Series car! Not that anybody would ever buy an M car just for show or anything.
This reeks of the BMW bean counters decreeing that M should start bringing in even more cash. I guess it could work out though; Porsche brought out the Cayenne and Panamera for the same reason, and they've used profits from those to continue development on the 911s, so if BMW does the same thing and this just means more money to keep true M cars alive, then I guess that's a good thing. Still seems lame though.
I actually hope the M cars DON'T get more hardcore; I really like where they are now on the comfort/performance continuum. If they introduced this line to be slightly less M and intend to make the M cars slightly more M (dedicated track cars, etc), I can see that appealing to track junkies, but for the most part I think they'll alienate everyone by removing the existing happy medium option of a car that's entirely practical on the street but hugely capable on-track. If they keep M cars where they are and this is just a lower-level offering, then I guess we just have brand dilution.
The BMW M Performance Automobiles offer exclusive engine variants, noticeably enhanced agility and outstanding precision on the road, plus design laced with emotional appeal.
How is that different from M cars?
"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.
Wow, it sure SEEMS like my M3 has plenty of everyday usability, but I guess I was wrong, thanks for clearing that up. In that case you may also want to tell your Marketing division to stop bragging about the M5's everyday usability too, Dr. Nitschke.