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BMW Concept 4 Frankfurt 2019

Looks that grille: divisive BMW concept previews next 4 Series

BMW Concept 4 Frankfurt 2019BMW has revealed a startling new concept car at the 2019 Frankfurr Motor Show. The Concept 4 is a less-than-subtle hint about how the next 4 Series will look.

Although only a show car, the Concept 4 is said to be an accurate representation of the finished 2020 4 Series. 

Intended to combine futuristic technology with traditional BMW design, there is likely to be one major talking point in Frankfurt

Expect to be grilled

BMW Concept 4 Frankfurt 2019Although we have seen the giant BMW kidney grille applied to SUVs and saloons, this is the first time it has made an appearance on a coupe. 

The gaping mouth of the Concept 4 is unashamedly vast. BMW says the vertical grille is inspired by the classic 328 sports car, or the 3.0 CS coupe from the 1970s. 

In creating the grille, BMW has incorporated special horizontal trim details. The grates inside it, and the air intakes, are formed from an array of tiny ‘number 4’ structures. 

BMW Concept 4 Frankfurt 2019According to Domagoj Dukec, head of BMW design, the kidney grille has “always been a signature feature of BMW cars. The BMW Concept 4 presents a confident and classy take on this iconic feature. At the same time, the BMW Concept 4 offers a look ahead to the expressive face of the 4 Series range.”

Just as dramatic are the LED headlights which, unusually, feature no cover over the lighting elements. This makes them more prominent, although don’t expect the production version to follow suit. 

The shape of the kidney grille also feeds into the heavily sculpted bonnet, flowing into the flanks of the Concept 4.

“Perfect proportions, clear precise design”

BMW Concept 4 Frankfurt 2019Viewed from the side, the Concept 4 demonstrates classic BMW coupe proportions. A long nose extends into a sweeping roofline, ending at a truncated tail. 

Adrian van Hooydonk, senior vice president of BMW design, said: “Concept 4 embodies the aesthetic essence of the BMW brand. It combines perfect proportions with a clear and precise design”. 

The fancy Forbidden Red paintwork is used to highlight styling features, while the 21-inch alloy wheels feature an intricate internal pattern. Other highlights include the side mirrors, which seem to emerge from the aluminium window surround and feature tiny BMW logos.

BMW Concept 4 Frankfurt 2019The rear looks similar to the recent flagship 8 Series coupe. BMW has used LED taillights to create its L-shape ‘light signature’, with the actual pattern said to resemble a heartbeat.

Intended solely to show off exterior styling, BMW has not released details of interior or engine options for the next 4 Series. However, we can expect to see the same range of petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid powertrains as the current 3 Series saloon. 

BMW will launch the production 4 Series in the middle of 2020.

BMW i8 signs off with ‘Ultimate Sophisto Edition’

BMW i8 Ultimate Sophisto Edition

It seems like only yesterday the BMW i8 was launched, looking every inch a vision of the future. Six years on, it’s signing off with the ‘Ultimate Sophisto Edition’ the last of the i8 line.

Announcing the run of 200 cars, BMW confirmed the i8 will cease production in April 2020. In the company’s own words: ‘the Ultimate Sophisto Edition will escort the world’s most successful plug-in hybrid sports car since its launch in 2014 onto the finishing straight’.

BMW i8 Ultimate Sophisto Edition

BMW i8 Ultimate Sophisto Edition

So what defines the Ultimate Sophisto Edition, besides that cringeworthy name? Sophisto Grey paint lends part of the car’s moniker, plus a rather attractive colour.

E-Copper accents provide contrast on the wheels, front grille and around the body, and are reminiscent of the Vision M Next concept. Look to that for clues as to what replaces the i8 next year.

Both Coupe and Roadster versions will be offered, each with a ‘1 of 200’ plaque inside the cabin. The sill plates also get ‘Ultimate Sophisto Edition’ script, while the tail lights are made from clear glass.

BMW i3S Edition Roadstyle 

BMW i8 Ultimate Sophisto Edition

As ever, the more down-to-earth i3 follows in the i8’s tyre tracks. It too gets a special version called the ‘Edition Roadstyle’, although not to signify the end of production.

It also has flashes of E-Copper, but over Fluid Black paint. On the inside, the headrests come with ‘Edition Roadstyle’ badging.

In spite of BMW’s relative inactivity with the ‘i’ brand, the i8 and i3 have both been trailblazers. What follows the i8 will surely be something special.

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Special edition BMW X6 is ‘world’s blackest car’

Vantablack BMW X6 is the world's blackest car

The BMW X6 has always divided opinion, and few more so than this one. It’s a special edition painted in Vantablack, otherwise known as ‘the world’s blackest black’.

From the description, it’s hard to imagine how that would look. And then you see it…

What is Vantablack paint?

Vantablack BMW X6 is the world's blackest car

‘VANTA’ stands for Vertically Aligned Nano Tube Array, and around a billion of these tubes cover every square centimetre of the X6.

It’s a coating that was originally developed for use in space. It’s also useful for observatories, as it effectively cuts out stray light from the sun, allowing a clearer view of far-off planets.

Absorbs nearly 100% of light

Vantablack BMW X6 is the world's blackest car

First developed by Surrey NanoSystems in 2014, the coating was found to absorb up to 99.965 percent of light. It also eliminates reflections, meaning the X6 looks almost two-dimensional.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Vantablack is so black that it effectively creates a void for the human eye. It’s like staring into a black hole. It robs the X6 of all of its styling lines. Potentially the perfect colour for it, then? X6 designer Hussein Al Attar seems to think so.

“The Vantablack VBx2 finish emphasises makes the BMW X6 look particularly menacing. Moreover, the BMW X6 has always been the most provocative and in-your-face model in our portfolio. So why not emphasise this even further, with a finish that simply captivates the viewer’s attention?”

Well suited to the X6

Vantablack BMW X6 is the world's blackest car

It’s very interesting to look at, but not exactly a designer’s dream given that it effectively renders styling lines invisible. Al Attar seems to think that X6 owners would love the chance to paint their car in ‘the world’s blackest black’.

“BMW X6 drivers are among our most extrovert and free-spirited customers. If anyone were to opt for a Vantablack paint option, it would definitely be a BMW X6 driver.”

Vantablack BMW X6 is the world's blackest car

What’s interesting is that Vantablack already has an automotive use, just not necessarily for style. It’s employed to stop sensors on autonomous cars from being corrupted by stray sunlight.

The latest X6 will be on show at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show in September and we sincerely hope this example will be there. A word to the wise: don’t lose yourself staring into it…

 

BMW previews 2021 iNEXT electric SUV development

BMW iNEXT electric SUV

BMW calls the iNEXT its ‘technology flagship’. It will feature BMW’s fifth-generation electric drive unit with the potential for Level 3 autonomous facilities. BMW’s first electric SUV is also expected to have a range of 370 miles when it launches in 2021.

Before that, BMW has to get the car ready for production. The Pilot Plant in its Research and Innovation Centre is currently preparing iNEXT prototypes.

BMW electric SUV

Though prototypes are used to ready the finished cars, this step in the development process is just as important. The early production phase allows them to work out exactly how they want to build it, developing new processes and improving quality.

It’s also important given that the iNEXT will be built alongside internal combustion and hybrid cars.

BMW iNEXT electric SUV

“Preparing a fully electric vehicle for series production is an exciting but challenging task,” said Udo Hänle, head of production integration and pilot plant

“By the time of the official start of production, we will have built as many as 100 prototypes of the BMW iNEXT. Until then, the Pilot Plant will use a range of new innovations to streamline and speed up our processes even further. We are also already preparing our first production associates from Plant Dingolfing to work on the new product.”

BMW iNEXT electric SUV

Even down to the bare bones, BMW is moving things along for the iNEXT. A new technique called rotary bonding is used to join pieces of aluminium and high-strength steel. It’s then checked by a new laser radar quality control system. X-ray tomography then allows them to examine the quality of the assembly without taking the car apart.

Virtual reality is also used to compare physical parts with the CAD (computer-aided design) models.

2019 BMW 3 Series Touring

2019 BMW 3 Series Touring review: loads to like

2019 BMW 3 Series TouringThe BMW 3 Series Touring estate was invented in 1987 by one of the company’s engineers in his spare time. Management liked his work with an angle grinder on a 3 Series saloon and, more than three decades later, 1.7 million sales are testament to his vision. The last version of the 3 Series Touring alone managed 500,000 sales.

This all-new one is no radical revolution. It’s such a popular model in Europe (two in three German 3 Series buyers choose the Touring; in the UK, it’s one in four, or 10,000 cars a year), BMW will never do anything silly.

Instead, it’s built in a surprising amount of sensible features that, were it a Skoda, would fall under the ‘Simply Clever’ moniker. They’re certainly intelligent enough to give BMW an edge in the everyday usability stakes.

2019 BMW 3 Series Touring

The new model is 76mm longer than the old one, taking it beyond 4.7 metres (the size of a 5 Series just a few generations ago). It’s a bit wider, a bit taller, and the wheelbase is longer.

Despite this, it’s no heavier than the old car, and the body is up to 50 percent stiffer in key areas. BMW says this is important for the driving experience; the engineers on the launch seemed to have a refreshing, newfound obsession with this.

Compared to the familiar Mercedes-Benz C-Class estate and dull Audi A4 Avant, the new 3 Series Touring has an appealing, modern appearance. BMW will sell it in SE, Sport, M Sport and M Sport Plus Edition trims in the UK (prices from £35,235 when it arrives in September), and most will be M Sport. Expect to see lots with big wheels and M-style bodykits, looking at its best.

2019 BMW 3 Series Touring

The clever stuff comes inside. Probably too clever by half if you’re looking at the dashboard. Fresh to the 3 Series, I found all the buttons baffling and the twin displays rather overwhelming in information. It’s BMW’s new user interface, called ID7. You can say “Hey BMW” and get it to do stuff via voice activation, but I didn’t master that either. It takes about a week for it to ‘learn you’, I was told. I felt like I needed a week, too.

After the mediocre old car, the interior of the new 3 Series is beautifully finished, all high-end materials and, again, a modern appearance. There’s more space front and back – the rear bench will now accommodate three child seats – and it’s easier to get in and out of.

2019 BMW 3 Series Touring

The boot has grown just five litres, to 500 litres, but it’s much better shaped. And the standard 40:20:40 split rear seats fold flat, expanding it to 1,510 litres. Building the standard electric-operation struts into the roof expands the opening and tidies up the appearance. The separately-opening glass window remains, too.

Clever features abound. The load cover has been split into two, and both pieces are child’s play to remove (anyone who’s struggled with the fiddly, heavy device of older models will welcome this). There’s also now somewhere to store it inside the car, with both pieces slotting into a space beneath the boot floor. Hurrah.

Buyers can option remote seat-release buttons, for easy fold-flat operation. The rear window is wider, and an expanded rear-view mirror makes the most of this, giving a panoramic view rearwards, even partly into the side windows. 

2019 BMW 3 Series Touring

There’s something ingenioushere, too: non-slip rails in the boot floor. They’re optional, and comprise a steel rail with a rubber section in the middle. Boot open, you can load things easily: close it and the centre rubber section raises slightly, holding whatever’s on top of it tightly in place. Brilliant. 3 Series Touring project leader Elke Sonak told me she tried it by placing her iPad on it, then going for a fast drive. “It didn’t move.”

So it’s a pleasure to live with, and peerless for practicality in its class. To drive? Most will, still, be diesel, with the 318d and 320d taking the bulk of sales. There’s a 320i and 330i for those fully out of love with diesel, and a wonderful-sounding M340i xDrive coming later.

At launch, though, BMW lavished us with the 330d xDrive, a six-cylinder diesel with 265hp, 0-62 mph in 5.4 seconds, and fuel economy of 50.4-52.3 mpg.

2019 BMW 3 Series Touring

It’s a beautiful engine. BMW has tuned out the roughness of the old car, but kept the classic six-cylinder hum and harmony.

At a cruise, it stays silent, and it’s effortlessly soothing and powerful. A genuine continent-crusher. Diesel still has a place in cars like this; if you really don’t agree, the first 3 Series Touring plug-in hybrid comes next year.

2019 BMW 3 Series Touring

Of course, it drives immaculately, too. The ride is poised and comfortable, steering ultra-crisp and precise, handling engaging and entertaining. It’s a feel-good car even those with little interest in cars will find rewarding and satisfying. Not only is it more capacious and better value than a comparable SUV, it’s simply nicer to drive.

BMW has successfully transferred its 3 Series saloon market leadership into the estate car sector. Not bad for an idea that started, all those years ago, as an after-hours project in a secret shed in Munich.

2019 BMW 3 Series: in pictures

Electric BMW i3 gets extra attitude from AC Schnitzer

AC Schnitzer BMW i3S

The i3 is perhaps the least sporty car BMW makes. However, that hasn’t stopped famous BMW modifiers AC Schnitzer from endowing the i3S electric model with a bit more attitude.

 

AC Schnitzer BMW i3S

The i3S is a sturdy looking thing, if a little lacking in aggression. AC Schnitzer has addressed that, with a rear spoiler, 20mm lower suspension and a front splitter.

The alloy wheels have also been pushed out of the arches by 12mm spacers.

AC Schnitzer BMW i3S

Relatively minor mods they may be, but the results are noticeable. This is the meanest looking BMW i3 we’ve seen.

The aerodynamic tweaks improve downforce, while the addition of the spacers increases lateral support and driving stability. The lower suspension is likely to be stiffer, but better in terms of resisting body-roll.

AC Schnitzer BMW i3S

Naturally, there are plenty of AC Schnitzer emblems to remind people your i3 is a bit more special, too both inside and out. 

AC Schnitzer has been modifying BMWs for more than 30 years, and is linked to the Schnitzer racing team.

This BMW X7 is the premium pick-up we deserve

BMW X7 Pick-up

BMW is the latest car manufacturer to climb aboard the pick-up bandwagon with the launch of the X7 Pick-up.

But while you can buy a premium pick-up from German rivals Mercedes-Benz, the vehicle based on the X7 SUV is a one-off… for now.

It’s also 100 percent BMW – there’s not a hint of platform-sharing to be found here.

The X7 Pick-up was unveiled at this year’s BMW Motorrad Days event in Garmisch-Partenkirchen – because not everybody heads to the Goodwood Festival of Hashtags – and was created by a group of vocational trainees with the support of the concept vehicles and technology departments in Munich.

Using a BMW X7 xDrive40i as a base, the team spent 10 months creating the road-legal truck, which boasts seating for five and a Tanzanite Blue paint job inspired by the boating world.

The length of the teak-wood floor varies from 140cm (closed) to 200cm (open), while the use of carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) means the pick-up is 200kg lighter than a standard X7, despite boasting a 10cm longer body.

Ain’t no mountain high enough

BMW X7 Pick-up concept

Milagros Caiña-Andree, member of the board for human resources at BMW, said: “I am pleased about the synergies between BMW Group Vocational Training, Concept Vehicle Construction and Model Technology, allowing these young talents to prove their abilities with such an extraordinary project.”

According to BMW, the trainees plan to “go for a spin in the BMW X7 Pick-up after its premiere or even take it for a trip to the mountains”.

We think it’s one of the coolest pick-ups of the modern era and there would be no shortage of takers if BMW decided to put it into production.

Have a look at the photos and decide for yourself. Curiously, there are no images of the front. Could this be linked to the lukewarm reaction to some of BMW’s latest designs?

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For sale: one of the coolest BMWs ever made

Alpina B12 BMW 7 Series

If the new BMW M Vision NEXT concept is a bit too Hunger Games for you, we feel your pain. Fortunately, one of the coolest BMWs ever made, an Alpina B12, could be yours instead. 

The B12 is the juiciest and rarest version of the Alpina-fettled E38 7 Series, one of the best-looking luxury saloons of all time. Only 50 were made in the long-wheelbase format.

Alpina B12 BMW 7 Series

Longer and sleeker than the already great-looking E39 BMW 5 Series, the E38 was also James Bond’s car of choice in Tomorrow Never Dies.

Why an Alpina, not a BMW?

Alpina B12 BMW 7 Series

For starters, it packs a mighty 5.7-litre V12 that’s not entirely unrelated to the one in the McLaren F1 hypercar.

With more than 380hp, it’ll get to 62mph in 6.5 seconds and top out at 174mph. That’s good performance at the ripe old age of 21.

What’s the Alpina B12 like?

Alpina B12 BMW 7 Series

Presented in Alpina Blue, this B12 carries all the tropes of an Alpina BMW. The decals, the alloy wheels, the exhausts: all are classic additions from the company’s playbook.

This is number 44 of the 50 made. It spent the first few years of its life in Germany before being exported to Japan.

It’s now done 50,637 miles and is completely original and rust-free, plus it comes with a healthy book of receipts. That’s not to say a brave pill won’t be required. This is a late-90s German luxury car, after all.

B12 BMW 7 Series

It’s due an MOT in August of this year, and both the front lower suspension ball joints will need their rubber seals done. However, as far as we know, that’s all it needs.

On the inside, it’s as you’d expect: wood, black leather, lots of buttons and a tiny screen by today’s standards. It looked quite impressive back in 1998, though.

I’m sold. How much is it?

At the time of writing, this B12 is teetering on the edge of £10,000. That’s a lot of car for the same price as a fairly aged Mk6 Golf GTI.

However, it will climb from there, given the auction still has five days to go. Similar cars recently made more than £40,000 in RM’s ‘Youngtimer’ sale.

Hans Zimmer to help fast electric BMWs sound good

Hans Zimmer working with BMW on electric car sounds

Hans Zimmer is the man responsible for the soundtrack to many cinema smash hits, including Batman, Superman, Sherlock Holmes and X-Men. Now, he’s collaborating with BMW to give its upcoming performance-oriented electric cars a voice.

BMW IconicSounds Electric: composing performance car vocals

Hans Zimmer working with BMW on electric car sounds

BMW has a very important concept car coming out soon. It will premiere tomorrow (June 25) at BMW’s NEXTGen event. It’s called the BMW Vision M NEXT and is likely to preview a future of electric BMW M cars.

When you have performance without noise, from a car wearing a badge so often associated with many of the great automotive soundtracks, it needs to have a voice. That’s why you hire one of the most revered cinematic composers of this and any other generation.

It’s a pairing that makes a lot of sense. An M car should be a dramatic event. Just as the world’s most famous superheroes coming to blows on the big screen is an event.

Zimmer himself associates a certain sound with BMWs: “As a kid, I used to recognise my mother coming home by the sound of her BMW,” he said.

Hans Zimmer working with BMW on electric car sounds

“I am thrilled to get the chance to design the sound of future electric BMW’s and create emotion for the future electric driving experience.”

The goal is for this new generation of performance cars to have an emotive sound. A sound that’s as textured as the mechanicals of BMWs of old. BMW wants to bridge the emotional gap with electric cars, given they have no sound, acknowledging there’s an ‘alienation between driver and vehicle’ as a result of electric cars not having that key emotional touchpoint.

“We want to get BMW IconicSounds Electric in position for customers who value emotional sound. With BMW IconicSounds Electric they will be able to experience the joy of driving with all their senses”, said Jens Thiemer, senior vice president BMW Brand.

“The sound of the BMW Vision M NEXT gives a glimpse into the future of BMW IconicSounds Electric.”

Zimmer has been working together with BMW’s own acoustic and sound engineer, Renzo Vitale, on the project.

Hans Zimmer working with BMW on electric car sounds

“When the driver interacts with the accelerator pedal it is not only a mechanical touchpoint but also a performative element, Zimmer follows.

“Accelerating becomes an experience during which the driver moves through a series of gradually morphing sound textures.”

The future of performance driving doesn’t sound so silent, or boring, after all.

Rare 1-of-50 BMW M3 GT leads big-bucks auction list

BMW M cars for sale at CCA August auction

A selection of rare BMW M cars will be hitting the blocks at the Classic Car Auction (CCA) August sale in Warwickshire. The M3 GT Individual, Z3 M Coupe and 325i Sport M-Tech are three of a diverse list of cars up for auction.

1995 E36 BMW M3 GT Individual

BMW M cars for sale at CCA August auction

This is a treat. It’s much derided, but the E36 gave the M3 the six-cylinder engine. The M3 GT Individual is a 50-off special edition, and this British Racing Green example is number 40.

An extensive history file and the original build sheet make this a rather complete buy. The only question mark is the mileage. Will 104,600 on the clock make this very special M3 attainable? Not quite: how does £20,000-£25,000 sound?

2001 BMW Z3 M Coupe RHD

BMW M cars for sale at CCA August auction

The Z3 M Coupe is a dark horse. It didn’t get much love when it was new, but a cult following for the M-powered ‘bread van’ has developed in recent years.

This car, presented in Sapphire Black Metallic, has done 62,900 miles. This 2001 S54-equipped right-hand-drive manual has been with its current owner for the last nine years and comes with its original build sheet and a fresh MOT.

Again, a healthily populated odometer doesn’t hold this car back from a heady estimated value. It’ll set you back between £35,000 and £40,000.

1987 E30 BMW 325i Sport M-Tech 1

BMW M cars for sale at CCA August auction

This is, without doubt, the most obscure of this M-fettled trio. The Sport M-Tech was a six-cylinder, two-door 3-Series designed to be the substitute for a right-hand-drive M3 that wasn’t available at the time. Though the M3 catches all the headlines, the 325i Sport is loved by those in the know for its sonorous six-pot.

This M-Tech 1 has sportier styling and comes in Lacks Silver. It makes the other two cars look leggy, too, with just 47,000 miles on the clock. It comes with a strong history file and is very well-kept. Yours for between £22,000 and £26,000…

“These are three fantastic cars to kick start our August sale catalogue,” said Gary Dunne, Classic Car Auctions auction manager.

“We recently sold a similar 325i Sport earlier this year for an excellent price and these cars make a great purchase as the M3s become rarer.”

The CCA August Classic Car Sale takes place on 3 August 2019 at the Warwickshire Event Centre near Leamington Spa.