BMW Technik GmbH's 25th Birthday and Coming Out Party

Don Sherman

Z13 PACKAGING STUDY Is it feasible to pack a mid-size touring sedan's room and safety within a compact car's exterior dimensions? The BMW Z13 was built to find out.

To save weight, the spaceframe underpinnings were constructed of aluminum extrusions and covered with plastic body panels. A compact 82-horsepower engine was packed in the rear. But the most unusual aspect of the Z13 was a central driver's seat flanked by two fold-flat rear seats.

This 1830-pound buggy not only achieved 43 mpg, it also served as a handy telematics platform. A GPS-based navigation system, a telephone, and a fax machine were fitted to its interior.

Z18 OFF ROADSTER BMW engineers feeling frisky in 1995 created a high-riding roadster with off-roading aspirations.

No slouch, the Z18 was powered by a 355-hp V-8 driving all the wheels. A steel frame was clad in plastic, as usual, and this experimental model was provided with limited fording capability. Two-seat, four-seat, and pickup configurations were all investigated.

Z21 JUST 4/2 Practically every maker has toyed with four-wheel motorcycle concepts at one time or another. As a motorcycle manufacturer, BMW brought ample creative thinking to that notion.

The Z21 wore a clever Just 4/2 nameplate when it bowed at the 1995 Tokyo Motor Show. A four-cylinder engine transplanted from a K 1100 bike provided 100 horsepower, more than enough to propel the 1200-pound two-seater. Six-second 0-60 acceleration and a 112-mph top speed were claimed. Special attire was designed for the attractive models that presented this one-off BMW in Japan.

Z22 MECHATRONIC SPECIAL BMW calls the marriage of electronic controls and mechanical systems 'mechatronics.' In 1999, the Z22 was created with 70 innovations and 61 inventions to investigate this emerging technology.

The Z22 is the most ambitious exercise in BMW's project car history. A carbon-fiber monocoque chassis saved significant weight. By-wire systems controlled both steering and braking functions. In lieu of ordinary rear-view mirrors, cameras sent images to a central display screen. Replacing the ignition lock, there is a fingerprint scanning device. Instead of a round steering wheel, a rectangular guidance control unit is fitted for a better view of the two-dial cluster and the head-up display. A rotary switch governs the CVT which connects a 136-horsepower flat four-cylinder engine to the rear wheels. The Z22 also pioneered BMW's I-Drive mouse controller for various infotainment, comfort, powertrain, and chassis systems.

The ungainly exterior appearance comes from marrying a 7-series wheelbase to a 3-series overall length. The combination does provide ample room for five passengers. While the 39 mpg fuel efficiency doesn't seem that impressive today, it was a stretch ten years ago, before hybrids arrived.

Z29 CURTAIN CLOSER The final project car constructed at the Techniks think tank explored light-weight construction with a creative mix of aluminum and carbon-fiber structural materials. The Z29 is equipped with scissors-hinged doors for access to the two-place interior. A 343-hp six-cylinder engine provides convincing thrust. A six-speed sequential transmission delivers torque to the multi-link rear axle. Curb weight is a feathery 2560 pounds. The claimed performance is 0-60mph acceleration in 4.4 seconds and a top speed of 168 mph.

2 of 2

New Car Research

our instagram

get Automobile Magazine

Subscribe to the magazine and save up to 84% off the newsstand price


new cars

Read Related Articles