The real big deal at BMW’s Innovation Days in Munich is the launch of a new family of engines. Actually what BMW launched was a single cylinder. That single, standardized cylinder becomes the basic building block of a series of in-line engines. They will have six, four, and (gasp) 3 cylinders. They will burn gasoline and oil. They will change the company. And possibly the way the ICE will be built. Gallery (for true pistonheads only) after the jump.
As independent car companies go, BMW is not the largest. They have sold an impressive 1.4 million units, but according to industry pundits, you need to sell at least 5 million for survival. Looking at the health and profits of BMW and other makers in its class, this is obviously not true. If you can’t compete on volume, you must compete on smarts.
Developing a kit from which many engines can be derived is a smart move. The new BMW power plants use a standardized set of design principles and a high number of common components for both petrol and diesel engines. The backbone of the BMW modular engine system are the standard cylinder, the in-line engine principle, and the TwinPower Turbo.
Using basically the same technology in smaller or bigger packs, BMW can power a broad range of vehicles spanning several segments and achieve scale effects which are inaccessible to manufacturers who have a dizzying array of engines that use multitudes of different technologies.
At the Innovation Days, BMW Group showed a new 2.0 liter four cylinder Gasoline engine and a new version of their new version of the 3.0 liter six cylinder in-line diesel unit.
The new engine propels the new BMW X1 xDrive28i in 6.1 seconds from zero to 100 km/h. It uses only 7.9 liters per 100 kilometers (29.8 mpg, non-EPA), 16 percent better than the previous model. The new diesel gives the BMW 530d xDrive similar acceleration while using only 5.7 liters per 100 kilometers (41.3 mpg, non-EPA).
Both engines will hit the European market shortly. Availability in the U.S. is still being researched.
The arrival of the 3 cylinder engine is not imminent. Suggestions that the 3 cylinder will be mostly used as a provider of a generator in a hybrid are not being denied out of hand at BMW. This gets a “sure, for that also” remark. However when you hear BMW folk sing the praise of the 3-pot having “a Laufkultur approaching a six cylinder,” when you hear them refer to the enginelet as a “halber 6-Zylinder” or “6-cylinder lite”, then you get the distinct feeling that this engine will not just be making electricity.
Now I know what some of you are thinking: “What’s all this 3, 4, 6 talk? I didn’t hear one mention of the 8 cylinder. It’s the Innovation Days, where they give a look into BMW’s future. Does the 8 cylinder have not future at BMW?”
It put this question to Ralph Huber, Chief spokesperson for Technology at BMW in Munich. He said “The 8 cylinder has a bright future at BMW. This was all about inline engines. The V8 is no inline engine. Our V8 is in a class of its own and has a life of its own.”
With these reassuring words, we conclude TTAC’s BMW day.