Many have wondered what shape BMW’s answer to the likes of the Audi R8 and Mercedes SL will take, and, indeed, if such a product will ever see the light of day. BMW whipped media and public alike into something of a frenzy when it unveiled the stunning Vision EfficientDynamics concept at last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show – now, company board member for sales and marketing, Ian Robertson, has stated that BMW will not rule out the possibility of a high-end sportscar in a similar vein to the aforementioned concept.
Robertson also divulged a number of developments relating to the long-awaited Project Megacity, the spiritual successor to the Isetta, as well as plans to utilise carbon fibre throughout the company’s line up and a front-wheel drive entry-level model.
Vision of a new performance car
The Vision EfficientDynamics concept, upon which the upcoming sportscar will reportedly be based, features a range-extender hybrid capable of developing 265 kW and close to 800 N.m of torque. With a tiny thirst for petrol (around 4,7-litres/100 km) and suggested performance figures of 0-100 km/h in 4,8 seconds and a top speed of 250 km/h, as well as CO2 figures as low as 50g/km in full-electric mode, the Vision concept is evidence that the sweet spot between performance and environmental awareness is slowly being realised. Robertson has revealed that BMW is currently in the process of building a second running Vision concept car for demonstration and display purposes, further enforcing the company’s intent to bring a production-ready model forth.
A carbon fibre future
Another area where BMW is hoping to break new ground is in the planned use of carbon fibre in a number of future models. The company has been working with Seattle-based carbon fibre specialists, SGL Carbon LLC, for the Megacity with a view to extending the use of carbon fibre into other, more mainstream, model lines. According to Roberston, this development would entail a wholesale shift in the company’s current production process. The movement away from pressed steel bodies would mean that assembly would be decentralised in a “hub and spoke” model that would see the core components of the cars being manufactured at a central plant with localised assembly centres finishing the cars.
With regards to the Megacity car, the use of a carbon fibre body shell will afford a 30 percent weight saving over the equivalent aluminium shell – a saving that will hopefully see the all-electric car’s operating range improve over the 160-193 km range currently offered by the Mini E. The branding of the Megacity has been a bone of contention for some time, with numerous sources suggesting that a new sub-brand would emerge in BMW’s portfolio. Robertson has clarified the company’s line by stating that the new car will sport the company’s signature roundel supplemented by model-unique branding, similar to the current crop of M-division models. The Megacity will go on sale from 2013, with the initial four-seater model being followed by a number of spin-off variants.
Front wheel drive models a definite ‘yes’
Robertson has pointed out that “the mature segments are growing slightly, but the real growth is in the small-car segments. In the next 10 years these will be the fastest-growing segments, for both volume and premium cars.” This lends a great dealof weight to BMW’s argument for breaking with its rear-wheel drive-only tradition and spreading into a new segment. BMW hopes that the front wheel drive variants will account for around a million units by 2015, some 600 000 units of which of those cars will be branded as BMWs, positioned below the 1 Series range.
Gran Coupé the next 6 Series and M1 for 2011
Robertson also confirmed that the production version of the Gran Coupe, unveiled at the 2010 Beijing Auto Show, may well wear the 6 Series badge and will debut “in the second quarter of 2012.” An M6 version is on the cards, probably featuring a heavily modified version of the company’s new twin-turbo V8, while the M version of the 1 Series is slated for “the first part of next year.”