BMW's Concept Touring Coupe Rumored for Limited Run
BMW introduced the Concept Touring Coupe at the 2023 Villa d'Este Concorso d'Eleganza in Italy. Clearly intended to be a throwback to the convertible M Coupes of the past, the design has metamorphosed the current-generation Z into a shooting brake.
While the name itself hearkens back to stubby wagons stemming from the 02 Series, the recipe of taking a sporting convertible and reworking everything after the B-pillar didn’t emerge until 1998. Based on the performance version of the Z3 roadster, the original M Coupe (pictured below) wasn’t just about changing the bodywork. BMW engineers wanted to build something that drove better and bent over backward to convince the Board of Directors to give approval.
When the go-ahead was finally issued, leadership stated that the car would have to be done cheaply. Parts would need to be largely interchangeable with other BMW products and advertising for the M Coupe (which is really a hatchback) would be nonexistent. Derided as a freak show by many, I’m convinced it’s one of the best things Bavaria has ever done.
The whole point of the Z3 M Coupe was to create a practical version of the M convertible that added some of the structural rigidity it lacked and that goal was met. BMW had claimed that the resulting product was about twice as stiff — fitting, because the car is about as overtly phallic as automobiles tend to get.
Viewed in its entirety, the M Coupe is indeed odd and was given numerous unflattering nicknames like “Clown Shoe” and “Bread Van.” But close-up shots highlighting individual design details are extremely flattering and the car boasts an interior offering everything a driving enthusiast from the era would want.
Equipped with the brand’s iconic S52 engine, the Z3 M Coupe was about as focused on the fundamentals of driving and became even more focused when the Z4 M Coupe was released. Its sloping backside meant the hunchback aesthetic was gone. But so was some of the storage capacity. The suspension was tuned to be a little harder and the implementation of the S54 engine meant there was more power. However, this was also the period where BMW was just starting to move away from analog cars and some would undoubtedly argue that the model came immediately after the company’s golden age had ended.
Still, these wider, stiffer, hardcore alterations of the Z roadster were invariably reviewed as phenomenal driver’s cars. They just never sold in great numbers, as there were other models wearing the M badge offering superior practicality without having to sacrifice much performance. Rumored to be a favorite among brand engineers, they were just too weird to be successful with the typical BMW shopper.
That makes the new concept based on the current G29 Z4 roadster extremely curious. While there has been a lot of hype surrounding shooting brakes over the last decade, they aren’t produced very often and remain a tough sell.
While technically a one-off, the concept is made from parts the automaker already uses.
It’s powered by the familiar turbocharged 3.0-liter, B58 straight-six engine that’s found in both the Z4 and Toyota Supra. That means power should probably ballpark somewhere around 350 horsepower. Wheels are unique 20-pronged alloys and come in at 21 inches at the back axle, while the frontal pair are only 20 inches. The interior is likewise bespoke, with leather coming from Poltrona Frau.
In its current format, the BMW Concept Touring Coupe seems to be a premium product and would likely retail much higher than the car it’s based upon. The Z4 is also presumably not going to be around much longer, as the company plans to shift production entirely to hybrids and all-electric vehicles. Though I suppose the most-jaded part of my soul could see the brand transforming desirable combustion models into limited-run experiences it can charge extra for.
Based on what BMW has said it wants to do in terms of electrification, developing a vehicle like this doesn’t seem to make sense. But what a company signals to the public rarely has anything to do with the actions it ends up taking.
"We still feel that this is the right car at the right time. The shooting brake remains a convincing synthesis of sportiness and style,” Domagoj Dukec, head of BMW brand design, was quoted as saying by Car and Driver. “We are going to monitor the response before making a decision, and when doing so we shall also consider the impact such a model would have on the marque and our image."
BMW Group Design Director Adrian van Hooydonk had likewise told Motor1 that numerous people came up to him to express an interest in buying the Concept Touring Coupe, should it ever go into production. While he similarly expressed that the vehicle was not intended for future sale, he also left room for possibilities.
“And there's no concrete plans to put it in production,” van Hooydonk said. “But, we made the agreement before we set sail for Lake Como that, if there's enough interest, we will take a look at it. That could be a very low-volume version, like 50 cars or so.”
Partnerships like the one with Superstile will be integral to any production plans for the Concept Touring Coupe, according to van Hooydonk.
“Typically, when you do a low volume, and we did that with the 3.0 CSL Hommage, you have to be smart about how you do it. You cannot cycle it through the factory. That's impossible. They cannot deal with that low volume,” van Hooydonk said. “So, you have to do it outside of your production structures, and you have to have several companies that help you with various pieces and then final assembly and quality control you do in-house. So that's how we did it with the 3.0 CSL.”
It seems that if the Concept Touring Coupe does see production then, it’s both going to take some time to happen and will be in very limited volumes. Still, van Hooydonk seemed upbeat and confident about the car’s production chances.
As previously noted, a limited production run would presumably mean the resulting model would retail for much far more than the Z4 it’s based upon. BMW could probably name its price if it’s seriously only going to build a few dozen examples. But maybe isolating demand and milking the vehicle as hard as possible is the entire point of this exercise. It at least sounds like leadership has given the premise some thought.
“You know, so many years ago we showed the Hommage 3.0 CSL. A lot of people told me right there and then, ‘Build it, I want one,’” he continued. “And I think they would've put their money down right away. It took us a bit longer. That was 2015, and now we delivered the cars this year. 50 units with this, I don't know, maybe we can do it a bit quicker [with the Concept Touring Coupe].”
[Images: BMW; Brandon Woyshnis/Shutterstock]
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