There’s been a lot of speculation about BMW saving weight on the next-generation 7 Series, which is expected to debut in late 2015. We knew that the overhauled platform would save around 450 pounds compared to the long-wheelbase 7 Series of today, but the latest news out of Munich is a bombshell. The next BMW 7 Series will be built with strong, lightweight carbon fiber.
According to board member Dr. Norbert Reithofer’s speech at BMW Group’s annual general meeting, BMW “will use carbon [fiber] in the next BMW 7 Series. Its low weight will set a very high standard for the segment.”
European bureau chief Georg Kacher reported in summer 2012 that all next-gen BMW 7 Series models would incorporate more carbon fiber into their architecture, while keeping lightweight aluminum for the suspension components, firewalls, and doors. In high-performance 7 Series models, perhaps the rumored M770ix or possible Alpina B7, a carbon fiber roof, trunk, and hood would all be included to cut weight and improve agility.
Powertrain choices for the upcoming 7 Series are expected to include a turbo I-6 (in 740i and 750i flavors for 340 and 460 hp, respectively), a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 in the 475-hp M770ix, and a 570-hp V-12 for the 760Li. Two plug-in hybrids are also possible, which would be built around a 2.0-liter four-cylinder and a 3.0-liter six-cylinder.
The move will mark the first time BMW has included carbon fiber as standard equipment in a production vehicle not under the umbrella of BMW M or Project i. We also know that there is a plan in place to build carbon fiber components like wheels, steering wheels, driveshafts, and carbon fiber-reinforced polymer dashboard supports and seat frames out of Project i production waste.
In the broader context of the announcement that BMW will triple its carbon fiber manufacturing capacity at its Moses Lake, Washington facility, news of the 7 Series adopting the material confirms earlier speculation that we’d see the technology trickle down into standard-series BMW territory.
BMW invested an additional $200 million to expand production at its carbon fiber plant, making it the largest producer of the material in the world. Previously an exclusive provider of carbon fiber for BMW’s Project i cars, the factory will build carbon fiber for other model series, according to supplier network board member Dr. Klaus Draeger.