With Jaguar, Volkswagen, and Audi all working on rivals to the banana-shaped Mercedes-Benz CLS, did you think BMW would stand on the sidelines? Of course not. Indeed, BMW is readying a stretched version of the next 6-series, which would feature four doors and four seats under a coupelike roof.
To its credit, the BMW team is taking a somewhat different approach from Mercedes-Benz. The car, codenamed LC5, will do without B-pillars. Instead, the structural integrity of the body will be supported by overlapping doors (the rear ones always shut first and open last) plus reinforced sills and side panels. All seats feature integrated belts and side air bags. The oval-shaped lateral aperture and the connected door skins are supposed to help spread out the energy in the event of a side impact. The engine lineup consists of four units: a 300-hp, 3.0-liter turbocharged six; a 400-hp, 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8; an M version powered by a 550-hp, 5.5-liter V-10; and a 3.0-liter twin-turbo six-cylinder diesel.
Transmission offerings are to include a conventional six-speed manual and two automatics, one a dual-clutch design. Both automatics will feature seven speeds and optional paddle-shift operation. The gear selector is a joystick with two parallel shift modes: flick it to the left, and you're in manual; flick it to the right, and you're in automatic. Pushing a button on top of the lever engages park. We also should see new electrohydraulic brakes, active steering, and wheels ranging in size from eighteen to twenty inches. It is not yet clear whether the new arrival will be part of the 6-series family or whether BMW would rather launch it as a 7-series coupe. Either way, the car is expected to reach showrooms in 2011, shortly after the next 6-series coupe/ convertible--and, coincidentally, around the same time as the second-generation Mercedes-Benz CLS, the car that started it all.