BMW At the NAIAS: Two Exciting New Models Debut
11 January 2000BMW At the NAIAS: Two Exciting New Models Debut
WOODCLIFF LAKE, N.J., Jan. 10 The North American International Auto Show is the venue for two important BMW debuts. The 323Ci convertible and X5 3.0i celebrate their world premiere. The Z8 sports car the 323i sport wagon appear for the first time in the U.S. almost simultaneously in Detroit and Los Angeles. Each of these new BMWs sets a new standard in its own way: the convertible as the first of a new line of successors to the 3 Series convertibles of 1994-99; the sport wagon as not just an all-new model, but the first 3 Series wagon ever offered in North America; and the new 6-cylinder X5 as the second model of what has already proved itself to be an immensely popular new vehicle concept. The Z8 blends classic sports car styling with cutting-edge performance and technology. Z8: 2-SEATER SPORTS CAR WITH CLASSIC DESIGN, FUTURISTIC TECHNOLOGY The Z8, an exotic V8-powered 2-seater sports car at the highest level of contemporary engineering and technology, has already been hailed by expert media as "ready to spearhead the company's charge into the new millennium" (AutoWeek, August 2, 1999) and "a bold Bavarian supercar" (Road & Track, May '99)... all of which begins to sound like understatement when one learns what the Z8's voluptuous shape is, and what it conceals. What the shape is: A contemporary sports-car design that recalls the glorious BMW 507 roadster of 1956-59, the Z8's design forms the outer skin of an innovative new aluminum space frame construction. Combining a robust aluminum "skeleton" with structural body panels into an amazingly rigid, yet relatively light unit, the Z8's body/chassis structure is a wave of the future that radiates the romance and excitement of classic design. What the shape conceals: First and foremost, under the classically long hood, the very 5-liter, 394-hp V8 engine that also powers the new M5 sport sedan. Here, driving through the same 6-speed manual transmission but carrying some 470 pounds less weight, the V8 powers the Z8 to a 0-60-mph time well below 5 seconds -- and of course does so with thundering sonority to match the Z8's compelling looks. This engine is by no means all the Z8's technological appeal. BMW has developed an all-new front suspension system, naturally made of aluminum and steered by a razor-sharp rack-and-pinion steering system; at the rear BMW's proven Integral Link suspension also appears in aluminum. Contact with the road is maintained by hefty 18-in. alloy wheels with W-rated performance tires of differentiated front/rear sizes and run-flat capability. Active safety is further enhanced by BMW's Dynamic Stability Control. The fortunate driver of this top-caliber sports car commands its performance from a leather-lined cockpit for two. Here, too, design details recall a glorious era; real aluminum trim, centrally located instruments and distinctive color coordination are among the notable elements. Ultimate sportiness does not preclude lavish luxury: A reference-quality audio system, GPS Navigation, portable hands-free phone, CD changer, heated seats, fully automatic softtop and a removable hardtop are all standard. Fewer than 500 units will be produced for the U.S. during 2000 in a dedicated area of BMW's Munich, Germany facility. The Z8 had its "pre-debut" as the Z07 concept car at the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show, and the production version's world debut at Germany's Frankfurt Automobile Show in September 1999. Many will see the Z8 in motion for the first time at the movie theater, as it plays the role of 007's ride in The World Is Not Enough. First deliveries of Z8s to retail customers are expected to begin in April. The Z8's base price is $128,570 including destination charge. 323i CONVERTIBLE: BMW's OPEN-AIR 4-SEATER ENTERS ITS THIRD GENERATION Thirteen years ago, BMW recreated the market segment of 4-seater luxury convertibles. It was a pioneering move when, after more than a decade of convertibles "lying low," BMW introduced the 325i convertible in 1987. A new generation, with sleeker styling and new engineering, followed in 1994 and continued through 1999, last represented by the 323i and 328i convertibles and offering such new-age features as a lined, fully automatic power softtop and the automatically deploying Rollover Protection System. Now comes the third generation, as the (also) third model in the new 3 Series. The first body type -- the sedan -- made its debut as a '99 model; coupes followed in mid-'99 as 2000 models; now, as a single model, comes the 323Ci convertible. The convertible is the open-air companion to the recently introduced 323Ci coupe, as such powered by BMW's turbine-smooth 2.5-liter inline 6-cylinder engine. Unlike its competitors, this new BMW convertible is available with a choice of ideal drivetrains: a typically BMW precise-shifting 5-speed manual transmission or the new STEPTRONIC 5-speed, 3-mode automatic. The 323Ci convertible's all-new and even sleeker, sportier styling is the outer skin of a unit-steel structure that is even more rigid than that of its impressively staunch predecessors. A glass rear window is also new, and the lined softtop is designed to reduce dripping from rain when the doors and/or windows are opened. Rear seating is now more spacious; storage of the softtop has been newly configured so that when the top is up, trunk capacity can be greatly increased. The hard cover that conceals the top when it is folded is newly of weight-saving magnesium. Beyond the already high standard of its ponvertible as well. The Rollover Protection System, which deploys two structural bars upward in case of impending rollover, is now standard vs. optional in the previous 323i convertible. And the front safety-belt system is newly integrated into the front seats themselves, helping occupants get optimum belt fit and restraint effect while allowing unimpeded entry into the rear seats: an exclusive feature in the 323Ci convertible's class. As an active-safety feature, helping stabilize the vehicle in critical cornering or avoidance maneuvers, Dynamic Stability Control is standard -- as, indeed, on all 3 Series models for 2000. The 323i convertible goes on sale in March; further convertible models will be introduced in due course. 323i SPORT WAGON: FIRST 3 SERIES WAGON FOR THE U.S. MARKET Over two generations, BMW has offered sport wagons in North America; they have found a unique niche in the U.S. market as vehicles that retain typical BMW character while adding cargo space and versatility. BMW's achievement of this goal is confirmed in, for example, Car and Driver's June 1999 comparison of five upscale wagons, which the 528i sport wagon won decisively: "An adept, carefully crafted driving machine that can pull wagon double-duty" is how the magazine characterized it. AutoWeek (September 20, 1999) saw the V8-powered 540i sport wagon in much the same terms: "sedan-handling, wagon-room." With the comfort and space of the current 3 Series, BMW planners believed the time was right to bring the newest 3 Series sport wagon to the U.S. market. It arrives here in April; as with the convertible, additional models will appear later. In its relation to the 323i sedan, the 323i sport wagon exactly parallels the corresponding 528i model: Within the same basic platform dimensions as the sedan, the sport wagon adds a spacious, versatile cargo area behind the rear seats. Also, to ensure a harmonious design and unlike some competitors, BMW gives its sport wagons a wholly different body shell and doors from the B-pillar rearward. The driving qualities that have made the 323i sedan the leading sport sedan in its class -- "It sticks to the road as if it were on runners," wrote AutoWeek on February 1, 1999 -- are maintained in the wagon; in fact, Car and Driver has already driven it and reported that "the wagon handles every bit as brilliantly as the sedan." The difference, of course, is behind the B-pillar, and it consists of -- -- Slightly lower (0.2 in.) overall height, not including the standard roof rails -- Slightly greater (0.3 in.) overall length -- Greater (0.8 in.) rear leg room -- Standard split folding rear seats (sedans: optional), including three 3-point safety belts and head restraints, pass-though, fold-down armrest, storage compartment and cupholders -- Carpeted cargo area with retractable cover, light and strong honeycomb floor, elastic hold-down straps on floor, tie-down hooks at side, and accessory power outlet -- Concealed underfloor storage space -- Upward-opening tailgate with power release (from interior or remote) and separately opening rear window, top spoiler and wiper/washer. Both convertible and sport wagon share the 3 Series' advanced technology throughout: -- Aluminum inline 6-cylinder engine with steplessly variable intake and exhaust valve timing and Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV) status -- 5-speed manual or 5-speed STEPTRONIC automatic transmission -- Advanced independent suspension with aluminum components -- 4-wheel ventilated disc brakes with electronic front/rear proportioning; larger discs front & rear than 323i/323Ci -- Dynamic Stability Control and All Season Traction -- Car and Key Memory (programmable personalized features) -- Tilt/telescopic steering wheel -- Service Interval Indicator with miles-to-service readout -- Automatic climate control with microfilter ventilation, automatic recirculation -- Height-adjustable front safety belts with automatic tensioners and force limiters -- Front-seat Head Protection System (HPS) (not in convertibles) -- Battery Safety Terminal. X5: THE WORLD'S FIRST SPORTS ACTIVITY VEHICLE, NOW IN TWO MODELS A year ago at this same venue, the BMW X5 made its world debut in the form of the V8-powered X5 4.4i model; in the meantime it has begun to appear on U.S. roads and byways. The X5 is like nothing else in the world: an utterly new category of motor vehicle, one with the SUV (sport-utility) characteristics but most emphatically not typical SUV personality, handling, performance and ride. At its base price of $49,970 including destination charge, the X5 is the all-new alternative for buyers seeking performance, quality, luxury and BMW-style road capabilities in a rugged, SUV-style vehicle. Not incidentally, the X5 also brims with advanced functional technology, including fulltime all-wheel drive, 4-wheel All Season Traction, Dynamic Stability Control and a remarkable new driving amenity called Hill Descent Control. As the second X5 model, the new X5 3.0i now makes its world debut here in Detroit as well. Powered by a new evolution of BMW's smooth, sonorous and universally acclaimed inline 6-cylinder engine, with 3.0-liter displacement and 224 hp, the X5 3.0i will be available with a 5-speed manual transmission, thus adding another dimension to the its unique combination of BMW sportiness and SUV characteristics. Naturally, it will also be available with a 5-speed automatic. The X5 3.0i goes on sale in May at a base price of $39,470 BMW IN AMERICA BMW entered the U.S. market 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; a 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, 300 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.