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Concept Study: BMW Z9 Gran Turismo

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Unveiled at the 1999 Frankfurt Motor Show, the BMW Z9 (or Z9 Gran Turismo, Z9 GT) was designed by Chris Bangle, ex-Chief Designer of BMW …

Unveiled at the 1999 Frankfurt Motor Show, the BMW Z9 (or Z9 Gran Turismo, Z9 GT) was designed by Chris Bangle, ex-Chief Designer of BMW Group, and represented an important turning point in the subsequent evolution of BMW’s design language. Among the features were an aluminum space frame and a V8 turbodiesel unit.

During the 2000 Paris Auto Show a convertible variant of the Z9 was debuted.

The Z9 Gran Turismo Concept car features the long hood and short rear deck that have become hallmarks of BMW sport coupe design. The Z9 featured a carbon fiber skin over an aluminum space frame offering both high rigidity and light weight.

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The “face” of the Z9 incorporated trademark BMW design elements, such as the dual round headlights flanking the central kidney grille.

Large wheels, 20-inch front and 21 inch rear, provided a hint of the performance capability of the Z9. Front and rear turn signals featured neon light technology, while rear lights incorporated light-emitting diodes (LED).

The Z9 GT also featured unique gull wing doors that also opened like a conventional hinged door, allowing the driver or front passenger to access the coupe in the normal fashion.

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Much of the styling found on the current E63 BMW 6 Series is derived from the Z9.

The Z9 did not make it into production, but many of its innovations did. The interior included an early concept of BMW’s iDrive system, called the Intuitive Interaction Concept. At the heart of the BMW Intuitive Interaction Concept is a single console-mounted rotary/push button which controls a variety of functions.

This single module allows the user to select and operate several hundred functions within the automobile. Used in conjunction with a monitor and four large buttons arranged in a square around the central rotary/push button, all drive, comfort, communication and audio functions can be easily activated.

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The rotary/push button falls readily to hand for the driver and front seat passenger and allows the driver to activate functions without the need to look at them while driving.

A large 8.8-inch monitor in the center of the dashboard displays all the information the driver requires in a simple graphic display, apart from the speedometer and tachometer which are conventional analog instruments.

The monitor is positioned within the driver’s field of vision, allowing it to be viewed while concentrating attention on the road ahead.

Another innovation in the BMW Z9 GT was the world’s first V8 turbo diesel for non-truck use, later produced for the BMW 7 Series 740d model.

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The 3.9-liter engine incorporates common rail, direct injection and produces 413 lb-ft of torque and 245 horsepower.

Looking forward into the future, we can only hope that another fascinating concept, Vision EfficientDynamics, will eventually make its into a production car, of course, with the necessary adjustments.

  • Larry

    Actually designed by Adrian van Hooydonk, under Chris Bangle’s direction…

  • David

    This concept was so incredibly good looking. Shame they didn’t put some stuff of the front-end into production models… Except for the grille..

  • Yves

    Yup Z9 is Adrian’s work, and this includes the controversial 7er. Unfortunately the instant hoo-hah probably made BMW more conservative again & seemingly back to the ‘sausage-factory’ concept of the ’80s. Even Adrian sings a different tune these days, and he sounds very much like reading scripts from marketing in the promotional clips. What a pity. Bring on the avant garde back!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=588340695 Ted Spahr

    Well I guess we know where the E63 came from then.

    • bob

      And E64 – from AvH.

  • Brookside

    A beautiful exterior design…much of it advancing cues that ended up on the E63-
    particularly the rear-end treatment of raised trunk/lower roofline.

  • CoCo

    A shame that BMW has gone back to sausage eras. I personally did like the individual looks of the E60 and E90.

  • bob

    iDrive came from BMW’s Technology Office in Palo Alto, CA.

  • bob

    Absent from this so-called concept study is the Z9 GT’s raison d’etre — to foretell the design language for the upper end of the last generation of bimmers. Epecially, E63-64 & E65-68, all by AvH. CB did not design the Z9.

    Under CB’s design direction, it represented one “bookend” of the generation’s design language; “Dynamic Proportions”. The other “bookend” was CC’s X Coupe of ’01; “Dynamic Surfacing”; previewing AW’s E85. Within the bookends came their siblings; sharing characteristics of both; but, to varying degrees, depending upon where that product ended up on the (family) design shelf.

    It should be noted that, per BMW’s modus operandi, AvH did the Z9 after his E65 was approved by the Board in ’98 [incl. Reitzle]. Same with the E85 (’99) & X Coupe (’01).

    Relevance today. While it might be tempting to say that the current generation — the Concept CS generation — is a less-than-graceful return to the P Bracq era of sausage making (as tasty as they may or may not have been), resist.

    The current generation was meant all along to be *evolutionary*..In BMW-speak, the Concept CS is an *evolution* of the Z9 GT’s/ X Coupe’s *revolution*. Only if the next generation, i.e., AvH’s first as Head-O-Design, beginning circa 21015/16, turns out be to NOT *revolutionary* can the current generation be deemed, same-sausage-different-lengths…not before then.

    • Doug

      Very interesting. Can you elaborate on the Dynamic Proportion, Dynamic Surfacing, and Sausage design languages?

      • bob

        When CB was hired by BMW, he was given the mandate to change the *looks* of BMWs but not the BMW *character*.

        A corollary was an explanation for the change. Perhaps the biggest criticism of pre-Bangle BMWs was, “eine Wurst, drei Größe” => one sausage, three different lengths…from the Paul Bracq era. The 3er , 5er & 7er would look essentially the same, differing only in size. Here’s a slide from a BMW MC presentation, circa ’01 (it & the others from one, Tim Cullin(Sp?))

        http://www.zroadster.net/rub-hc01-pres23.jpg

        Another criticism voiced by CB was that the design of certian BMWs had become a ‘Stack of Wedges’ , to project forward motion…from the Claus Luthe era. The following slide is a chronolgy of the 3 Series:

        http://www.zroadster.net/rub-hc01-pres25.jpg

        Note how th E46 has a pronounced wedge shape compared to its predecessors. Particularly, vs. the E30, which some consider the pinnacle of ‘3 Box’ design form. Alas, from a design aesthetic and also an aerodynamics perspective, wedges no longer make sense.

        This slide is very useful for another reason. It also shows BMW’s design policy of alternating generations – Revolutionary->Evolutionary->Revolutionary->Evolutionary.

        E21 = Revolutionary
        E30 = Evolutionary
        E36 = Revolutionary
        E46 = Evolutionary
        E90 = Revolutionary
        F30 =

        Another challenge CB was faced with was BMW’s planned explosion of new products. Something Bracq & Luthe didn’t have to deal with. Same-Sausage-Eight-Different-Lengths / …Ten-Different-Lengths / …Eleven-Different-Lengths / …Whatever simply isn’t going to work. As BMW stated many, many times, When you expand your product line, you have to expand your design palette as well.

        So, consequently, for the *revolutionary* generation beginnging with the E65, CB executed not one but two design themes. Two bookends. One bookend is the Dynamic Proportion, aka Formal Presence. The E65 7 Series is all about presence; to correct what the E23, E32 & E38 lacked. At the other end is Dynamic Surfacing or Flame Surfacing. While now a slur, ‘FS’ can vaguely be described as having both convex and concave elements in the same body panel.. Like the Z9 GT did for the E65-68 7 Series & E63-64 6 Series, the X Coupe concept car foreshadowed the E85 Z4. It’s ‘DNA’ & demographics require less formality/more spontaneity. BTW, observe how the E85’s lateral vent or “slash” on its sides, whether you like it or not, demonstrate forward motion without the whole car being a wedge.

        OK. so, now that they had the bookends established, they other products would share traits of both, depending upon where on the bookshelf. For example, the E63-64 is a big, formal, expensive coupe/cabrio, so its look should be closely linked to the 7er; but, clearly its rearend is more aggressive. Correspondingly, the E81/E87 & E82/E88 1 Series is not as sporty as the Z4, but definitely no where near as formal as the 7er. Therefore, its looks are closer to the Z4. Putting all of the ‘books’ together we then have,

        http://www.zroadster.net/rub-hc01-pres29.jpg

        Back to the present. The current generation, the Concept CS generation, is meant to be an *evolution* of the midpoint between Z9 GT X Coupe, which were the bookends of the *revolutionary* generation.

        • Doug

          Thanks, very interesting. You’ve packed a great many concepts in your posts.

          I’m still unclear on what Dynamic Proportion and Formal Presence is, at least in concrete terms like the way you explained FS. They sound like two different abstract things, actually, the former being the emphasis and flow of forms, the latter being… well… I don’t know how to define “presence” in aesthetic terms. Subjectively, the cars have a maturing character as you go up the line, but what factors and elements accomplish that?

          • bob

            Here are some excepts from a CAR interview with CB, for their April ’02 issue. Keep in mind that the context was/is in reference to the CS1 concept car, which was unveiled at that time.

            Re: CS1,

            “Look, for instance, at the flame design of the X Coupe, ” suggests Bangle. “You’ll see a lot of similarity to this vehicle in terms of surface dynamics, but the CS1 is more tame. The X Coupe was comparatively wild.”

            “The X Coupe drives its themes to an exaggeration point in the same way the Z9 does in the other direction. These cars were super-important to us because they defined how wide the landscape is out there. The car typologies we currently have on the table all fit wonderfully within that spectrum.”

            “The proportions of the Z9 go way beyond what you would want in a normal car, by being cartoon-like. The CS1, on the other hand, develops its surfaces over a certain rhythm that avoids the abrupt changes typical of the X Coupe.”

            CAR: “So the CS1 sits in a comfort zone between the two extremes, the Z9 at one end and the X Coupe at the other?”

            “Exactly. The Z9 is all about formal elegance. The X Coupe is aobut informal dynamic, about spontaneity in the surfaces. From the informal to the formal is a BMW dynamic, there is a premium look to it, there are all the luxury aspects you expect from the brand. We call this the book-end strategy.”

            “BMW design defines itself through proportion, surface and details — PSD. PSD is inside each of the books on our bookshelf. In the case of the CS1, the hood length, the large 18in wheels and short overhangs are important proportion statements, signalling power and driving dynamics.”

            He goes on to descibe “S” & “D”, but that’s about what he had to say about “P”. Note that ‘PSD’ was included in the images above.

          • Doug

            Bob, I tried to find this article but could not. Do you have any links to it?

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  • tom

    look so cute

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