Few companies are as competitive with each other as the German luxury brands. Now that Mercedes-Benz will be making the S600 Maybach edition of their S-Class fullsize sedan, BMW is responding wtih their own flagship, the Vision Future Luxury concept, introduced at the Beijing auto show on Sunday. Since Vision Future Luxury doesn’t quite fit BMW’s alphanumeric nomenclature, when it goes on sale in 2016, it will likely be known as the 9-Series, though some have suggested that it will revive the 8-Series nameplate or even be the basis of the next 7. The Neuner will be the largest car that BMW offers, with a total length of about 216 inches (5,500 mm), making it about 11 inches longer than even the long wheelbase versions of the 7-Series. Wealthy Chinese prefer to be driven, one reason for the concept’s debut in Beijing.
If it goes into production, the 9 series will be BMW’s largest model with a length of about 5500mm (216 inches), about 280mm more than the long-wheelbase 7 series. The extra length will boost the car’s appeal in markets such as China where most top executives have chauffeurs.
BMW is applying the carbon fiber expertise they are gaining with their electric i3 and i8 programs to the Vision Future Luxury concept, most notably where short carbon fiber bars from the room to the belt line replace the full length conventional B-pillars that normally sit between the front and back doors in four door cars.
When the suicide style doors are opened, you can see that the pillar’s carbon fiber structure is part of a load bearing structural molding that includes the seat frame and is integrated into the door sills. The way the molding is contoured, with the doors open it looks as though there is no lower pillar and it allows easier access to the back seat. It also allows the use of lighter weight doors than on other cars with no visible B pillar, like BMW’s 7 Series based Rolls-Royce Ghost, while still providing adequate body rigidity and side impact protection. Weight savings is the rationale for using what BMW called “subtractive modeling” in the manufacture of interior parts. Thin layers of carbon fabric or aluminum are bonded with similarly thin veneers of wood or leather to create lightweight interior trim pieces.
There are separate touch-sensitive display screens for the driver and front passenger and information can be exchanged between them. That way applications like making dinner reservations or buying tickets via the BMW ConnectedDrive Luxury Concierge service can be handled by the passenger without having to distract the driver. Two more displays are in the back, mounted in carbon fiber housings with their own detachable touch command tablet. Rear seat passengers can communicate with the front seat displays and also access ConnectedDrive services like video and music streaming.
While the trick carbon fiber B-pillar will likely not make it to production, the electronic gizmos probably will.
Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS