Prototypes of the car with which BMW hopes to take the fight to the Mercedes-Benz SL have been snapped prowling the streets of Munich. Despite all its cladding and tape, this stranger appears to bear the shape of the upcoming Z9.
Spy photographers have recently snapped a menacing black shape gliding through the streets of Munich. Unless Batman recently relocated from Gotham to Bavaria (and there’s little to suggest that’s the case), it seems probable that this car is the prototype of the forthcoming BMW Z9.
Initially, the mysterious motor was thought to be the next generation Z4, but a couple of clues have now led to the automotive press agreeing that this is the successor to the beautiful, but much maligned, BMW Z8.
The car is clearly bigger than that Z4, although that was not conclusive proof of the Z9’s identity – earlier reports suggested that the next-generation Z4 would be upsized in order to make room for an entry-level Z2 roadster.
The side glasswork of this heavily-disguised prototype shows a glass-to-glass (sans B-pillar) configuration similar to that of the Mercedes SL-Class, the car that the Z9 will be battling with for the German über-convertible honours.
Another visual clue as to this prototype’s SL-bothering intentions is what initially looks like a slim canvas convertible roof. It appears that this canvas cover is part of the car’s disguise and is glued to a retractable hard top roof similar to that of the SL.
In spite of all the cladding and tape, the classic BMW sports car long bonnet and squat hindquarters suggest the Z9’s front-engine rear-wheel-drive configuration, and the newcomer won’t feature the appealing tapered boot section of the Z8 – probably in a bid to free up luggage space and accommodate the retractable hard top.
It is safe to assume that a number of the Bavarian marque’s six and eight-cylinder engines will be offered on this model. There are also rumour of diesel variants being made available to European markets, although looking at the svelte lines of the prototype it’s hard to imagine and oil-burner chug emanating from the nose. The range-topping Z9 M could be fitted with either a 373 kW V10 or possibly a monstrous 447 kW V12 powerplant.
It has been suggested that the Z9 will hit the market sometime around 2010 and will be priced above the 6-Series. By that time the market segment it will occupy will be brimming with competition such as the Accura NSX, the Audi R8 and the new Lexus LF-A.