In a surprise debut at the 2001 North American International Auto Show in Detroit yesterday, BMW unveiled its latest concept vehicle - the BMW X coupe. Dramatically different from anything that BMW has created before, the X coupe concept car challenges traditional design theory and shows a possible new direction for future BMW designs.BMW has deliberately questioned existing preconceptions and created a vehicle that combines the sporty styling and driving characteristics of a coupe with the sense of adventure and capability that defines a Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV). Based on the four wheel drive chassis of the X5, with a body made completely from aluminium, the X coupe stands 58.3 inches high, (which is slightly taller than the 3 Series Coupé at 53.9 inches), 180.3 inches long and 73.6 inches wide. The wheelbase is identical to the X5's at 111 inches.
Under the coupe's long, one-piece bonnet is the advanced 3.0 litre BMW turbo-diesel engine, six cylinder unit used in the 530d, with state-of-the-art common rail direct injection and developing 184 bhp. The X coupe's power plant has been modified to produce 332 lb-ft. of torque. Stability at speed is enhanced by a rear spoiler beneath the bodywork. Normally flush with the vehicle's bottom rear edge, the spoiler extends downward automatically at 68 mph to generate aerodynamic downforce. Top speed is expected to be in the region of 125 mph.
A five-speed Steptronic automatic transmission takes its power to all four wheels. The driver can control the gearshift via 'paddles' on the steering wheel with the gearbox in Steptronic mode. Massive 20 inch wheels carry 225/50 tyres at the front and 285/45 at the rear adding emphasis to the coupe's assertive presence. Run flat tyres make a spare wheel and tyre unnecessary.
As a member of the BMW X family, the coupe naturally has all the traction and stability enhancing systems on board from All Season Traction (AST) for all-wheel drive, through to Dynamic Stability Control (DSC-X) and Hill Descent Control (HDC). Like the X5 the X coupe is well equipped to go off-road when required.
Designed with the driver in mind
The X coupe is more of a 1+3 rather than a 2+2 because the vehicle has been uncompromisingly orientated towards the driver. Controls only of interest to the driver can be seen only by the driver. For example, the engine temperature and fuel readouts are located in the driver's door.
A low mounted lever on the centre console gives the driver access to the colour monitor of the multi-function control system. When pressed this lever actually changes the shape of the dash to reveal the monitor and control panel beneath. This control system was first shown in the Z9 concept cars and controls the entertainment system, cabin comfort, navigation and telematics. For the X coupe it has been further refined to allow GPS navigation functions to operate off-as well as on-road.
Innovative new safety design
New lighting technology contributes to the X coupe's active safety. The headlights for example steer with the wheels for effective illumination of curves on the road. Input from the GPS navigation system allows the headlights to anticipate the curves ahead and to illuminate them properly.
Another innovation is the brake lights. They indicate to following drivers how hard the X coupe's driver is braking. Under light braking only the outer rings of the brake lights illuminate and as pedal pressure increases, the illumination spreads inward until, under full braking, the entire area is illuminated.
Asymmetry replaces pure symmetry
Venturing away from the highly symmetrical world of motor vehicles the X coupe abandons convention to explore alternative design solutions.
Although not immediately obvious, a closer examination reveals that the two taillight units are not symmetrical. Their inboard edges are parallel both pointing downward to the right. The rear tailgate is asymmetrical too, and almost the entire rear section opens by tilting rearward, revealing the cargo space and rear seats.
The absence of a C pillar on the passenger window side allows the front window to merge seamlessly into the rear window, allowing cargo and passengers entering and exiting from the curb very easy access.
A new design language - Flame Surfacing
BMW designers have invented a new terminology to describe the distinctive body contours of the X coupe - Flame Surfacing. Flame Surfacing gives body surfaces the freedom to turn in on themselves and create a series of concave and convex design lines. These can be seen on the doors, the dash and on the top of the front wings where the bodywork has an unusual concave shape.
The X coupe: off the road, into the future
The X coupe challenges the received wisdom of automotive design and explores a new way of structuring cars in the future. It also continues a long-standing BMW tradition of seeking out new market niches. At the same time, this concept vehicle expands the spectrum of BMW styling into a new, exciting design language, firmly rooted in tradition, yet treading new ground.Published 19 January 2001