The tii revival didn’t exactly start off with a bang. At the Tokyo auto show last fall, BMW resurrected its fabled tii suffix-best known as the high-performance version of the company’s marque-making 2002. Unfortunately, the Tokyo concept was little more than a 1-series coupe with a cosmetic package. The show car was accurate in that a tii kit is in the works for the 1-series coupe, according to BMW chief Norbert Reithofer. The package consists of aero body add-ons, carbon-fiber trim, wider wheels and tires, sport seats and instruments, and a new, M-style steering wheel with an integrated LED rev counter.
That’s fine, but a tii deserves substance, not just style. The good news is that the substance is coming, and eventually tii cars will supplement the M cars as a second strain of performance models, one that’s more accessible and emphasizes connectedness rather than absolute power. They are designed to be raw and rather loud driving machines that deliver a particularly intimate aural and tactile experience, as well as a higher level of dynamic connectivity. In technical terms, this means upgrades such as more direct steering, a firmer suspension, reduced noise insulation, and a brawnier drivetrain.
The good stuff could start arriving as early as later this summer, with the face-lifted 2009 3-series. That car is under consideration for a tii version that, in addition to styling tweaks, would include M3 brakes, nineteen-inch wheels, a sport suspension, a dual-clutch transmission, and increased boost pressure that would bump the output of the 3.0-liter twin-turbo engine from 300 hp to about 355 hp.
The tii revival gets into full swing with the next-generation models of the 1-series (due in late 2011), the 3-series (out in early 2012), the X3 (also in 2011), and the new X1 (coming in mid-2009). All four of those cars are slated to get tii versions that will have emphatically sporty appearances and exceptional dynamic abilities. The 1-series tii would feature a lighter unibody and use a direct-injected, 2.0-liter twin-turbo four-cylinder good for 300 hp. BMW is even evaluating unique, tii-specific body styles. The most intriguing is the so-called “sharknose” version-a special tii body style for the 3-series. It is almost retro in character, with thin roof pillars, a relatively upright windshield and rear window, and simple head- and taillights, as well as traditional “waterline” styling (which also can be found on the current 1-series coupe and cabriolet). Aslightly longer front end and a cab-backward greenhouse should also help create a quite different tii-only appearance.
It’s too early to tell whether the tii game plan will first come into effect on the 1-series or the 3-series or what the exact scope will be. But it’s clear that BMW is determined to plug the gap between the sport packages and the M cars, using a more affordable mix of visual and engineering enhancements worthy of the iconic tii suffix.