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DETROIT, Jan. 8 Three BMWs made their world debuts today at the North American International Auto Show. The previously unannounced BMW X coupe concept vehicle combines ground-breaking sport coupe styling with off-road capability. The M3 convertible represents something unique in the marketplace - a true high-performance four-seat convertible. It was further announced that the base MSRP for the M3 convertible would be $54,045. A third member of BMW's family of X5 Sports Activity Vehicles was also unveiled, the ultra high- performance X5 4.6is, which joins the X5 4.4i and X5 3.0i. Making its North American debut is the Z9 convertible concept vehicle. This open-air 2+2 provides a glimpse into future BMW design. At its heart is a new concept in interior design, called iDrive. With the increasing number of comfort, convenience, navigational and driving features becoming available in automobiles, iDrive will make it much simpler for drivers to operate these features while concentrating on the full-time task of driving. First unveiled in Los Angeles, the M coupe and M roadster, equipped with the new, more powerful 3.2-liter engine, will join the M3 coupe, M3 convertible and M5 sport sedan to offer a full range of products from BMW M. BMW X coupe A Coupe and an X in One Vehicle The BMW X coupe introduces a totally new design concept, highlighted by the following: THE ENERGY OF TENSION. The X coupe shows that BMW is opening a new chapter in vehicle design. Dramatically different from anything BMW has ever created, the designers have charged this shape with a high-energy field of tension. The X coupe plays the role of automotive iconoclast. It does not shy away from paradoxes or contradictions: a coupe that can go off-road ... a sport coupe with diesel engine ... asymmetries on its exterior and in its interior. Surfaces that turn in on themselves, or can change their shape -- these and other elements don't fit into the usual scheme of things. IT ONLY SEEMS UNLIKELY. Begin with preconceptions: A coupe is a vehicle with sporty styling and driving character. (True.) A coupe is only for driving on the road. (No longer true.) A coupe has traditionally been built for athletic driving on the road. Yet just as modern athletics are no longer limited to the coliseum or playing field, sporty driving is no longer limited to just the road. In its concept and detail the X coupe embodies the spirit of sports such as mountain biking or snowboarding. FLAME SURFACING: a new design language. The X coupe is striking. Its design is radically different from any previous BMW. The key element of the X coupe's design is high energy tension. The tension that builds between emotion and function, between sculpture and machine proves both creative and challenging. The name of this technique is Flame Surfacing. Surfaces developed by this technique are reminiscent of the forms of energetic flames, such as those from the burning of gas under pressure. It allows body surfaces to turn in on themselves. It also gave the designers the freedom to introduce asymmetry into the ordinarily symmetrical world of motor vehicle design. The two taillight assemblies, for instance, are not symmetrical. On the right side, there is no C-pillar: the right-side door window continues smoothly into the rear window. SPORTING AMBIANCE: UNCOMPROMISINGLY DRIVER ORIENTED. The X coupe is just as innovative inside as it is outside. Front sport seats in concert with a commanding seating position impart of unique feeling of control. Adjustable pedals work to ensure that all drivers can find the perfect seating position. Everything near the driver is oriented toward the driver making the X coupe more of a 1+3 seater than a traditional 2+2. Here too, Flame Surfacing determines much of the esthetics. Organic and varying surfaces create tension. Along the doors and on the dash, surfaces flow from concave to convex and back again. FLEXIBLE SURFACES GIVE A LOOK BEHIND THE SCENES. Clever touches abound. When a low-mounted lever on the center console is moved downward a neoprene-covered, flexible surface on the dash changes shape, opening like a sort of mouth to reveal the color monitor of the multi-function control system. The functions are controlled using iDrive with a control-knob positioned for easy access by the driver and front passenger. SPORTY TURBODIESEL AND ALL-WHEEL DRIVE: Under the coupe's long hood is a 3.0-liter common-rail injection, six cylinder turbodiesel which produces 184 horsepower. The power-plant has been modified to produce 332 lb-ft of torque. It is mated to a 5-speed STEPTRONIC automatic transmission. The driver can control shifts via "paddles" on the steering wheel. As a member of the X family, the X coupe has all the requisite traction and stability enhancing systems on board, from All Season Traction (AST) to Dynamic Stability Control for all-wheel drive (DSC-X) and Hill Descent Control (HDC). A BOLD STANCE WITH UNIQUE TECHNOLOGY. The aluminum body is highlighted by 20-inch wheels and run-flat tires. Stability at speed is enhanced by a rear spoiler beneath the bodywork, which extends downward at 68 mph to generate aerodynamic down-force. Innovative new lighting technology contributes to the X coupe's active safety. The headlights steer with the front wheels for more effective illumination of curves. In road driving, additional input from the On-board Navigation System enables the headlights to anticipate curves. The brake lights indicate to following drivers how hard the X coupe's driver is braking: based on a electronic signal of deceleration, under light braking only the lights' outer rings illuminate; as deceleration increases, the illumination spreads inward until, under full braking, their entire area is illuminated. The New M3 convertible BMW M Performance with Open-air Pleasure As it has twice before, BMW M has combined the style and pleasure of the latest 3 Series convertible with the no-compromise performance of the new M3 coupe to create the third-generation M3 convertible -- a true high-performance, four seat convertible. The M3 convertible, as you would expect, shares all of the best M qualities with the M3 coupe, from the high-revving, 333 horsepower engine through the M sport suspension and upgraded brakes to the unique design elements. The best of the third generation 3 series convertible will be found as well. The standard power front sport seats incorporate seat-integrated safety belts and a power easy-entry feature for convenient access to the rear seats. As on the M3 coupe, the new M sport seats with adjustable backrest side bolsters are optional. Other features shared with the "regular" 3 Series convertible includes the soft top variable storage compartment, which accommodates the folded top but allows increased cargo capacity when the top is raised. The fully automatic, lined soft-top is equipped with a heated glass rear window. It may be raised or lowered with the touch of a button and can also be lowered from the remote control. The M3 convertible's long list of safety features begins with a remarkably rigid chassis. The standard Rollover Protection System automatically deploys bars behind the rear seats in a rollover accident. The seat-integrated belts provide optimum fit and include automatic tensioners and force limiters as well as power adjustment for the upper anchor point. On the active safety side all the special BMW M features from the M3 coupe are there -- widened tracks front and rear, unique M suspension and upgraded brakes. The unique M Variable Differential Lock enhances traction and handling on wet and slippery roads. Add to that Dynamic Stability Control which has been calibrated for these high-performance vehicles. The most important elements that the M3 convertible shares with its coupe counterpart are the 3.2-liter six cylinder engine with its six individual, electronically controlled throttles and six-speed manual transmission. The unique engineering features and high-revving concept yield 333 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. Compared to the previous M3 convertible, itself a brilliant performer, these represent an increase of 92 horsepower and 26 lb-ft. Top speed will be electronically limited to 155 mph. Acceleration to 60 mph from rest should require less than 5.5 seconds. X5 4.6is Performance to the X Power When it enters production this fall, the X5 4.6is, will extend the X5 experience to drivers who demand the utmost in performance with nearly 350 horsepower on tap. With its 4.4 liter, 282 horsepower V8, the X5 4.4i is already one of the top performers in its class. The X5 4.6is uses a 4.6-liter version of the V8 that will be exclusive to the X5. With 347 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque (European ratings), the newest X5 will accelerate from 0 - 100 km/h (62 mph) in approximately 6.5 seconds and will reach a top speed of more than 149 mph. To complement the power of the new engine, the 5-speed STEPTRONIC automatic transmission has been modified. With the shift lever in "D," shift programming is close to that of the current Sport mode. When selecting the Sport mode, the driver can take advantage of even more aggressive shift programming. Should the driver wish to do the shifting, the Manual mode has been programmed for even quicker, sharper response. The X5 Le Mans experimental vehicle with its 700 hp V12 LMR engine and lightly modified suspension demonstrated the competence of this platform on the demanding, 176 turn Nurburgring circuit. One of the reasons for its great handling is that the X5 has an usually low center of gravity for this kind of vehicle. The exterior of the X5 4.6is reflects its greater performance capability while remaining elegant and understated. Highlights include 20-inch wheels with 275/40-20 front tires and 315/35-20 rears accented by more prominent wheel openings. The front of this newest SAV features a distinctive body- colored front bumper/spoiler assembly and standard Xenon headlights. The body-colored rear apron emphasizes the power of the X5 4.6is, by framing the dual oval chrome exhaust tips. Z9 convertible concept vehicle The Z9 convertible concept offers a look into the future of BMW interior an exterior design. The interior features iDrive an ergonomic concept designed to make operating the myriad functions inside the car easier. In silhouette, this open-air 2+2 possesses classic long-hood/short deck proportions; from front to rear, there is tension in the surfaces and lines that are used sparingly. The design strategy is "Simplication" -- stressing and strengthening the essential elements, while eliminating the extraneous. It signals the future of BMW design. The laminated-carbon outer skin conceals a structure that provides rigidity on par with the Z9 gran turismo coupe. The exterior is highlighted by large wheels and tires -20 inch front wheels sporting 245/45 tires with 21 inch rears with 285/40 tires. The interior of the Z9 convertible is even more remarkable. With the ever increasing number of functions at the driver's disposal, designing controls that make operating all of them with a minimum of distraction becomes a greater challenge. That served as the inspiration for iDrive. Functions within the interior have been divided into three levels: * Basic functions that impact driving itself are clustered around the steering wheel within easy and direct reach of the driver. * Second level functions which are frequently used remain on the instrument panel. Items such as light switches and climate control temperature settings. * Most functions inside a car fall into the realm of comfort, convenience, communications or driver-assistance. Simplifying these is the Control Center. The Control Center is a color monitor placed within the field of view of the driver and passenger. Functions are called up on the monitor using a rotary-push knob on the center console between the driver and passenger. Commands are executed by moving the controller back and forth, left and right or diagonally; rotating it and pressing on it. These movements select menu functions, which are grouped into eight types, and confirm their selection. iDrive simplifies the interior layout and operation without reducing the number of functions available. BMW in America BMW of North America was established in 1975. Since then, the company has grown to include marketing, sales and financial service organizations in the United States; a South Carolina manufacturing operation; DESIGNWORKS/USA, an industrial design firm in California; a technology office in Palo Alto and various other operations throughout the country. BMW is represented in the U.S. through a network of more than 340 car, 315 Sports Activity Vehicle and 160 motorcycle retailers. BMW US Holding Corp., the Group's headquarters for North, Central and South America, is located in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. Information about BMW products is available to consumers via the World Wide Web on the BMW homepage. The address is: http://www.bmwusa.com. Be sure to read all of the BMW reviews right here on TACH.