As is the case with well tended-to fields, the newcomer reaps what his predecessor sowed. That's great news for BMW Chief Harald Krüger. He can collect a bounteous harvest, and doesn't have to rectify any major errors made by his predecessor.
After the initial test drives of the new 7 Series, BMW seems to have done everything right once again. Ex-BMW Boss Norbert Reithofer extended the portfolio of the Bavarian motoring company massively during his reign, and to good effect. There are just a couple of little issues on the topic of quality. Under Reithofer's lead, BMW overdid the costcutting somewhat, case in point, the BMW 3 Series. "I myself found customers' criticism justified, and, once I assumed responsibility for the development, initiated the necessary changes", announced the new Chief of Development Klaus Fröhlich, in regards to the facelifted 3 Series. Despite this: the Reithofer era will be regarded as an especially successful one in the annals of BMW history.
However, that's all in the past. Now, we must turn and face the questions of the future. The new top dog will present his strategy for the coming years in Autumn 2016. In addition to continued work on long-term topics, there are several concrete decisions to be made before then. Two further niche models could find their way into the BMW portfolio. One, for example, would be the 2 Series Gran Coupé. Inspired by the great success of the Mercedes CLA, BMW's product planners are working on a four-door model beneath the current 3 Series, which should predominantly appeal to younger consumers. The moderate space inside the CLA doesn't appear to present an issue for this target group, so the rear-wheel drive BMW should be able to attract customers with a more sporty, dynamic appeal, rather than offering added space. It will be based on the next generation of the 2 Series, which will hit the market in 2019. As BMW already has considerable experience with four-door coupé style saloons in its higher-end models, hopes are high than the 2 Series Gran Coupé will get the green light.
So what is BMW doing in the mini SUV segment? The fact of the matter is, this segment is booming. Booming both in terms of supply and demand, around the world. Of course, BMW Group is already represented in this segment by the Mini Countryman, but the next generation of Countryman will be considerably bigger. The answer to this predicament will be the Urban Cross, which measures around 4m in length, and should only weigh around 1,300 kg. The small crossover will be built on a front-wheel drive platform, and prices will start around 25,000€ for a basic three-cylinder petrol engine version. In stark contrast to the case of the Mercedes CLA, BMW is quickly taking action to avoid granting its opponent an uncontested segment. The small BMW could be on the forecourt as soon as 2017, one year behind the Audi Q1 (4.15m long). Your turn, Mr Krüger!
No jubilee supercar
Some decisions have already been made: BMW's 100th birthday will see no new supercar, as some had hoped. "A supercar as we know it – a V8 or V10 engined beast – isn't on the cards", Development Chief Klaus Fröhlich tells auto motor und sport in no uncertain terms. That doesn't mean that the brand is going to ignore the jubilee entirely however. Word from people close to Krüger is that the goal is to develop an electric supercar, whose "technology won't age quickly". BMW bosses are expecting giant leaps in battery technology over the next few years, and they want to wait for these. The heavy weight of current electric sports cars is an issue that perturbs Fröhlich. "Battery technology has to be developed significantly, before we reach the day when the sports car driver can enjoy an electric car below 2.5 tonnes."
BMW is taking more time than the competition, even in developing large, more spacious electric cars, for precisely this reason. Whilst Audi is planning on launching its electric SUV in 2018, the BMW i5 (or maybe i6 – the name isn't yet set in stone) won't arrive before 2020. It won't be a crossover model, rather a roomy saloon with coupé styling, something along the lines of the BMW 3 Series GT, but in the striking design of the i models. The specification calls for a 400 litre boot, and a range of circa 500 km. The petrol engine Range Extender, which BMW provides as an option on the i3, will no longer be offered. Conversely, the conventionally powered 3 Series GT may not live past the 3 Series' 2018 model change. Its future is still under discussion. Sales are allegedly failing to meet expectations.i3: Facelift and a new battery
The wheel is turning ever faster: At current, BMW models receive a comprehensive facelift after approximately three years on the market, and are replaced by a successor after six. Two exceptions: the BMW i3 and i8. In comparison to BMW's conventional offerings, the i models will remain on the market far longer. The i3 won't receive a facelift until 2018. This will see the electric car receive a significant increase in range. BMW plans to continue using the older battery in a cheaper entry level model, with the stronger and longer lasting version being sold at a premium. For clients that buy an i3 before the 2018 facelift, the option to retrofit the new battery will be offered.
BMW's facelift of the i8, which will follow on the heels of that of the i3, will also include a new variant – the i8 Spyder. Both i8s will enjoy longer range and improved performance too. We'll get somewhat of a preview of the new i8 when the new Formula E season begins; the Super i8 will be used as safety car. This i8 will feature new battery technology, which has direct consequences for both range and performance. The three-cylinder turbo engine will be optimised too, giving the i8 over 400 BHP to play with. The i8's chassis will also emerge far sportier than before.
New Z4 with Toyota
A new Z4 roadster is also in the pipeline. As sales of the open-top two-seater are decreasing around the globe, BMW has sought the help of a new partner. The BMW engineered, soft-top model will also be used by Toyota as the basis for a hard-top sports car. The Japanese brand will however use their own motors in their version of the car.
The Z4 will be powered by the BMW faithfuls. The development of an M model is still being decided upon. In terms of driving dynamics, the new Z4 will be far superior to those of the current model. It will feature the axle of the current M3 and weigh around 1,400kg. The 2017 roadster will be fitted with all the newest Connected Drive functions, however not all BMW driver assistance offerings will be available.
With regards to engines, BMW is only making minimal adjustments over the coming years, as engines built using BMW's new modular system are only just reaching the market. The basic principle: 3, 4, and 6 cylinder diesel and petrol engines, with a cylinder capacity of approximately 500 cubic centimetres. All engines will feature Twin Power Turbo technology, with dual variable camshaft control, especially precise fuel injection and new, lighter turbochargers, amongst other features. Thanks to this and further measures, BMW will be able to achieve efficiency increases of up to 15% on its classic combustion engines. Additionally, the Bavarians are experimenting with water injection, which will initially only be used on the M models.New 5 Series coming at the end of 2016
Over the course of the coming year, BMW has its work cut out. The 3 Series GT will be overhauled, the X4 will get a facelift, further engine configurations for the 7 Series will be launched (12 cylinder and plug-in hybrid with an electric reach of 40km) and a new version of the Mini Cabrio. At the end of the year, the new generation of the 5 Series Saloon will also be launched (on sale 2017). The Touring and GT models will follow 6 and 9 months later respectively. The 5 Series will feature a variety of the technical highlights seen on the 7 Series. One exception: the especially light carbon won't be used for cost reasons. The weight loss of around 100 kg will be achieved by using high-tensile steels, as well as materials such as aluminium and magnesium.
Despite that, this upmarket success story promises to be a high-tech car with a plethora of driver assistance systems, for example the ACC system with stop & go piloting, which works at speeds of up to 130 km/h. The speed pilot is able to recognise and obey speed limits, using a camera. Additionally, the braking assistant can recognise stationary objects at speeds of up to 70 km/h and bring the car to a standstill in time. Naturally, the 5 Series is also able to negotiate tricky parking spaces without a driver – a click of the key will solve that issue. "And when it comes to the interior, customers will be able to feel the new attention to quality", one person connected to the project told us.
The motorisation options of the upcoming 5 Series are wide ranging. The petrol engines start at 184 BHP in the 520i, with the mid range offering of the 3.0l six-cylinder engine with 326 BHP, and go up to the 550i with 450 BHP. The diesels range between 150 and 313 BHP.
One thing that the 5 Series doesn't feature is a major design change. "We want to start that with the 3 Series, because that will allow us the fastest visibility on the road, allowing BMW fans to get used to it quickly", BMW told us. Aside from that, drivers of the 3 Series are generally more progressive and open for new things, when compared to the more conservative drivers of the more upmarket models.
3 Series design change
Starting at the end of 2017, Chief Designer Adrian van Hooydonk plans on revealing aspects of the new BMW look through a series of design concepts. According to information gained by auto motor und sport, he will focus on exaggerating the presence of the brand-typical kidney grille, which are already more prominent on the new Z4 thanks to their larger size and 3D styling. In addition, new OLED light technology will make narrower and more striking lighting options possible. The market launch of the new 3 Series isn't until 2018, and will feature the well-known modular engine system, in addition to, we expect, a range of electric options.
The end of 2018 will also see BMW venture into uncharted terrain: the US built X7 should serve to poach Mercedes GL drivers. "We also have the Range Rover and Cadillac Escalade in our sights", BMW states. The design of the plus-size SUV will take heavy inspiration from the X5, but be more powerful all round. Engine options at launch will be 6 - 12 cylinder petrol engines. No diesels are in the pipeline, but a plug-in hybrid is planned.
BMW Chief Harald Krüger has some lofty aspirations it seems. He doesn't intend to merely reap the reap the rewards of his predecessor, but to sow seeds himself. Everything points towards a bounteous harvest.BMW loses ground in "production quality"
As part of the auto motor und sport "Best Cars" survey, we ask you, the reader, to tell us your opinions on the images of the big car brands. BMW has been either the top dog, or close to it, in many criteria for several years running. Thanks to the i models, BMW was also able to steal the lead in the "environmentally responsible" category from previous frontrunner Toyota. It's not all good news for the brand however. BMW has been slipping in the ratings for production quality for the last 3 years. The cause for this was the current 3 Series, which, it must be said, was improved this summer.
Standing still is moving backwards – BMW gets it
BMW's people have always bravely gone where noone has gone before. And that has allowed them to define the direction of the automotive industry on many an occasion. That isn't to say they are always successful – just look at iDrive. Despite this, I connect the BMW brand with a highly innovative company, whose products are worth the premium. One exception: the quality issues of the current 3 Series. But that's something that Development Chief Fröhlich has recognised and corrected. The new BMW Chief Harald Krüger would be well advised to follow the example of his predecessor, and carve his own path, rather than go with the flow. This may entail the unpopular decision of keeping out of a supercar "arms race".