Friday, March 13, 2009

Should we question BMW’s engineering?

BMW has always been an engineering-driven company. We can count on BMW for technical supremacy in different areas: best engines in the world (and consequently, the most awarded); excellence in handling; obsessive care for weight distribution; leadership in human-machine interface (yes, I hated i-drive too, but fact is, everyone copied them). More recently, with a market move towards increased efficiency and although being a sports-luxury company, BMW managed to also be leader in fuel consumption with their range of “efficient dynamics” technology.

So there should be no reason to criticize. However, according to recent rumours, it appears that BMW is working on a 4-door coupe version of the next 6-series. So far so good. But it has also been said that the new competitor to the Mercedes CLS and future Audi A7 would have a design without B-pillar and using rear doors in the style of the Mazda RX-8. All of this for further market differentiation. If this turns out to be true then it is a huge and unpleasant surprise. Because, being an engineering-excellence company I would not expect BMW to use such concept-car style technical solution.

A car without B-pillar would have seriously compromised passive safety and stiffness, something that BMW would not accept. So the structure has to be reinforced, highly reinforced, which means more weight… in a 4-door coupe BMW?... this can not happen, for sure. Or maybe BMW will have available superior materials such as composites, at competitive cost, in order to overcome the deficient design. But then they could still use them with a conventional design and further improve stiffness regarding the competition and/or reduce weight.

Either way, maybe the rumour is not true. But if this car is for real then I find disappointing that BMW would compromise sound engineering solutions for such a styling statement. The kind of car I would expect BMW to make is a Porsche Panamera fighter, with superior engines (that BMW has available), a CS-concept design (much better looking than the Panamera), and available AWD including the new DPC system that would destroy the Panamera in handling. To the folks at BMW: you have the tools to outgun Porsche so please don’t distract yourselves with styling statements.

This image from Auto-Bild looks nice, but please keep the B-pillar

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