BMW is pulling out all the stops to fill the void between its i3 and i8 electric cars. The German automaker is also expanding its X range of SUV’s. The sporty Z4 is waiting to break cover, and so is the seventh generation of the 5 Series as BMW works at a frenetic pace.
The global economy may not be in top gear, but BMW is cruising these days – literally! Sales and revenue at a Group level are growing fast in the automotive sector (which includes Mini and Rolls-Royce), and in particular for BMW cars. From January to October this year, BMW’s finances have soared, largely boosted by the 2 Series with the front-wheel drive Active Tourer – the first BMW of its kind – which has become a bestseller in Europe. Global sales of the 4 Series and the electric i3 and i8 cars have grown handsomely, and BMW SUVs didn’t disappoint either. Only China, where sales seem to be slowing down, creates some uncertainty.
“To ensure competitiveness in the future, expanding model ranges and areas of business is imperative,” emphasizes Friedrich Eichiner – a member of the Board, and responsible for its finances. And with 15% more funds for its R&D department (3.69 billion Euros from January to September), BMW certainly means business. In recent years, BMW products have come in bursts – including new debuts, restyling and upgrades. And that trend is reinforced by the schedule of launches from next year to 2020. The debut of the seventh generation of the 5 Series (sedan) next year has been confirmed, and the market should also get the plug-in hybrid version of the 7 Series. In 2017, as many as four models are expected to hit the market – the X2, the new Z4, the 5 Series station wagon and the 5 Series GT. 2018 will bring the restyled X4 and the i3, a new generation of the 3 Series, and a brand new SUV – the X7. And, in 2019, it’ll be the turn of the 2 Series Gran Coupe to arrive, and for the i8 to get a facelift. BMW could round off the decade with the launch of the i5 and i9 models to expand its i range of cars.
Zero-emissions mobility is one of the focal points of BMW’s strategy for the coming years – with EVs for city driving, and fuel cell vehicles for longer trips. With a longer lifecycle than conventional models (six years from one generation to the other), we will have to wait till at least 2018 to see the first steps on the i3 that could focus on increased range – courtesy of the expected technological evolution of batteries. The batteries used currently may remain in use alongside new ones especially designed for higher range. There might even be the possibility of an upgrade to the newer batteries for customers who’ve recently purchased the car – albeit for a fee.
Sooner or later, the upgrade related to the increased range will reach the i8 coupe, which should improve its performance as well – thanks to the optimization of the very capable three-cylinder turbo petrol engine, with a possible power output of 400bhp against the 362bhp of today’s engine. A convertible version of the i8 is also said to be headed for production. If BMW decides to bring in an i5 (or an i6, depending on the body-type – although it’s unlikely to be a crossover), it will have to wait till 2020. The new model should have the ability to travel 500 kilometres on a single charge without the range-extender petrol engine. Still shrouded in uncertainty is the i9. BMW has set aside the idea of ??a traditional super sports car to celebrate its centenary in 2016, because the development of the batteries still hasn’t reached a level that ensures the standards of excellence required for zero emissions. In short, the possibility of the i9’s debut can only be planned for the end of the decade.
SUVs may not figure in BMW’s four-pronged strategy of electric mobility, financial performance, efficient dynamics, and digitization, but they continue to fuel the automaker’s success. The hypothetical crossover below the X1 is not yet ready. It’ll be around four meters in length, and only front-wheel drive (to be named the Urban Cross). This small Bavarian SUV-coupe will share the Ukl platform with the X1 and the sportier X2, and will be ready in 2017. Around the end of 2018, it’ll be the turn of the X7 – a larger version of the X5, with added space to seat seven passengers. The X7 will be made in the United States, and will target the American market – its natural habitat – where it will compete with the Mercedes GLS and Cadillac Escalade. The SUV is likely to be powered by six-cylinder engines. A plug-in version remains a possibility for the future.
SEDAN AND SPORTS CAR
In passing from the “i” of the electric cars to Z of the convertibles, you have to take a pit-stop in the area of volumes. By late 2016 (or 2017), the new 5 Series sedan will arrive in dealer showrooms – followed a few months later by the Estate versions and the GT. All three will liberally draw from the technological background of the core 7 Series – with the exception of the still-too-expensive carbon fibre used in the new 7. However, one can expect the best in terms of driver assistance systems and a power rating from 184bhp to 450bhp for its petrol engines and from 150bhp to 313bhp for its diesel engines.
In 2018, six years after the debut of the current model, the 3 Series will be ready for its generational jump. But BMW might dump the not-so-successful GT version of the 3 Series. The heir to the Z4, finally expected for the autumn of 2017, could be called the Z5. Born under an agreement with Toyota, the Japanese will provide the hybrid technology for the plug-in version of the roadster. In this way, the Bavarian company will recover part of the costs incurred for the construction of a model that is increasingly recognized as a niche product – in which the Asian markets haven’t shown much interest.
A new electric powered car, the i5 (here in our rendering) – a sedan with similar dimensions to the 3 Series – could come by the end of the decade. In the background, the Z4, which will be ready for the market in early 2017.
With the Z4, expected in 2017, BMW’s new styling direction will debut – with the kidney grille and three-dimensional headlights drawn from thin OLED’s.
The seventh generation 5 Series is expected to be ready between 2016 and 2017. The sedan will debut first (in the picture below), followed by the Touring (right) and by the GT, which will be ready only a few months later. Not a big style revolution, but a lot of technology has been derived from the 7 Series.
The X7, expected by the end of 2018, is the evolution of the seven-seater X5. To the right, the X2, or the smallest Bavarian SUV-coupe – it’ll complement the X1 in 2017.
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