BMW has unveiled the next generation of EfficientDynamics (ED) engines, and in doing so raised the tantalising possibility of a three-cylinder engine in the 5 Series.
Yes, the times they are a-changing. Due in about four years, BMW's new family of engines will come in three-, four-, and six-cylinder configurations, petrol and diesel - and all turbocharged.
They'll be highly modular, sharing a greater proportion of parts than BMW's current engine line-up, including using identical 500cc cylinders.
The company says that 40-60 percent of parts will be shared across the engines, petrol and diesel. This will improve economies of scale.
It's the three-cylinder unit that could be most significant, because BMW is aiming for 68bhp and 74lb.ft per cylinder.
That, logically, means a 1.5-litre three-pot with more than 200bhp is on the cards. That's more than enough poke to power a 5 Series, as well as a 3 Series. What chance of a 315i and 515i by 2015?
BMW has confirmed that this, the smallest of this group of next generation ED engines, will slot into the MINI and BMW 1 Series first.
As well as the turbocharger, the three-cylinder engine will feature an innovative balancer shaft, which BMW says guarantees it will perform with trademark smoothness and refinement.
There's no word on fuel economy yet - it's too soon into the development process - but each of the new ED engine family has been designed to work with an electric motor in future hybrid models.
Mark Nichol - 12 Apr 2011