Editorial: Should BMW Build a Serious Off-Roader?

Featured Posts, Interesting | January 15th, 2012 by 34
2012 bmw x1 xdrive prototype 04

It’s a question that’s crossed our minds, and it may have crossed BMW’s board room tables. Should BMW build a serious off-roader? What defines a …

It’s a question that’s crossed our minds, and it may have crossed BMW’s board room tables. Should BMW build a serious off-roader? What defines a serious off-roader to begin with? What are the potential benefits of building one, and who would buy it? All of these are relevant questions.

To start off, a serious off-roader would be defined by BMWBLOG as an off-road vehicle that features full-time 4-wheel-drive with locking front, mid, and rear differentials. The vehicle should also have unlocking sway bars, plenty of ground clearance (preferably over 14″ or 44 cm), steep approach, departure and break-over angles, and lower gear ratios at the ready, preferably on the fly. A factory equipped winch would be nice, as would a air snorkel, mounted at least side-view mirror height. A fire-hose washable interior would also be nice, particularly if an open top version is offered. Easy reach tow-hooks front and rear would be nice, as would massive, thick-gauge skid plates covering the belly of the beast. Finally, diesel power would be preferred, preferably a torquey, highly efficient unit to extend range.

bmw x5 off road 655x393

That’s quite a wish list, we admit. But for those who take off-roading seriously as a hobby, or for those who depend on off-road vehicles for their line of work or service to their respective militaries, this wish list is just the beginning.

The most off-road worthy vehicle BMW currently offers is the X5, and while it can handle slippery roads in stride – it does not belong on the punishing Rubicon trail – nor does it belong in the Outback, or deep in the African or South American jungle.

The potential benefits of building a focused BMW off-roader would include market share in the hotly contested military and security vehicle segment. Mercedes has built over 200,000 G-wagons since 1979, and in fact, the G-wagon is Mercedes’ longest standing model in the lineup, and hence, one of its most successful and profitable. Another niche could be claimed by BMW if they don’t hold their engineers back – BMW does seem to be smitten with filling every niche these days… don’t they? A harder line could be brought to BMW’s marketing partners, thus allowing ads to place this vehicle squarely against the likes of Land Rover, Mercedes, Jeep, Hummer (the original, not the annoying and useless GM-based wannabe version) and Toyota offerings.

The BMW off-roader, let’s call it the BMW X, could be offered in both military and civilian versions. While it’s true that most buyers would not take their civilian X much further off-road than a gravel driveway, this is hardly the point, nor is it an argument against building it. The marketing value and military/security sales alone would validate its existence.

2012 bmw x1 xdrive prototype 04

We have no concept sketches of such a vehicle. Anyone out there interested in forwarding their effort? We’ll post all sketches on the website, linked back to this article.

If BMW did decide to build the X, it would come with a premium price tag, what with its bespoke, one-off engineering and high-quality, durable parts. Testing alone would rack up the price tag. But rest assured that with BMW’s security vehicle experience and engineering prowess, along with their diesel expertise, they could take the fight to the competition on both the road ways and the battlefield.

[Photos credit: AutoGuide]

34 responses to “Editorial: Should BMW Build a Serious Off-Roader?”

  1. Catalin Ioan says:

    i don’t really see bmw that pure off road ..like it’s not in the dna. maybe something like range rover and gl .

  2. Anonymous says:

    Yes they should make something around 30K. No one would buy a 60K + offroader and actually take it offroad. They should make something that goes head to head with Wrangler and maybe add the doors that were in the BMW Z1.

    • michael verhoef says:

      there’s a lot of people particularly here in Australia that pay more than that for a Toyota Landcruiser and take them Outback (mind you Landcruisers stopped being cheap a very long time ago here)

    • michael verhoef says:

      there’s a lot of people particularly here in Australia that pay more than that for a Toyota Landcruiser and take them Outback (mind you Landcruisers stopped being cheap a very long time ago here)

    • BMW alltheway says:

      land rovers are usually above 80,000 in Australia and people drive them in full on 4wd conditions. the Toyota land cruiser cost about the same as the land rover but its bigger so its also quite popular. another example is the hummer H2 back when it did exist, the starting price was also 80,000 plus (hummer is know owned by china) 

  3. Giom says:

    Maybe something in the spirit of the R1200GS, but a car version. I agree with a X1 version of this, however, it will not be cheap.

    If they do embarg on such a thing, it will have to give the others a serious bloody nose, otherwise, what’s the use.

  4. Mrmaxiz says:

    If they wouldn’t have sold Rover then they probably could/should. Not in this situation.

  5. Bnorman says:

    No !They should build a larger convertible that 2 adults can enter and exit easily and be comfortable while in the back seat !

  6. BeEmWe says:

    Looks like BMW has actually supplied some military vehicles. Here in Dubai/Abu Dhabi I’ve seen military X3s that can tackle the vast sandy deserts.

  7. JohnC says:

    X5 has great driving dynamics yet its very potent in the heavy snow. We had an X5 and in 2009 there was such a heavy blizzard, that there was upwards of 1/2 metre of snow on the roads. That day many people couldn’t even get out of their yards, let alone drive to work. Our X5 took us there with ease. On the muddy offroad conditions, however, I admit, it is not the best tool. I have gotten stuck with it in mud, but then again it was never built for such offroading. Well what is amazing that X5, even with its size and weight, is still superior to many sedans and weaker sportcars on the track, its that good.
    I’m afraid X7 (or whatever it could be named) would not have any classic BMW value like X5 has. Permanent 4wd, huge offroader is going VERY far from BMW’s philosophy.

    • LaMa says:

      X5 is a Cross-over. It was the one of the 1st cross-over vehicles. It can handle your off-road duty on a snowy day.  I’m pretty sure there were some other people on the road that same day with Corollas and Civics and snow tires.
      X5 is NOT an off-road vehicles. Any vehicle will handle well in snow with snow tires and FWD or AWD.

  8. Nick says:

    Lest anyone forget, BMW did develop a somewhat decent offroader: L322 Range Rover.

  9. Terry Jansen says:

    This is a notoriously hard market to crack, as Jeep already owns it, for $29.995.00 (Wrangler Rubicon) before rebates and discounts, It comes with a 5 yr.100,000 mile warranty, and a reputation that is hard to surpass, as well as most everything on your wish list. And most of these never turn a wheel in the dirt. To that, add the small niche market that the Wrangler and vehicles like it is aimed at, and besides, who is going to take their BMW offroad and risk sctatching it up?

  10. Rmn Jrz says:

    I’d love to see a BMW-offroader, competing with Merecedes’ G Class and LandRover’s Defender, plus all Jeeps. It would be interesting to at least see a concept, so we can imagine how it would look like (like the BMW M1 Hommage, just making a picture without building it).

  11. John says:

    10 years ago I would say go for it, but not now. The War on Terror is sure to winding down along with military spending. So private contractors will defiantly bee cutting down. I see no business case for a BMW Hummer. If they want to do an off-roader they need to target Jeep not Land Rover.

  12. lunaslide says:

    A real off road vehicle like you describe has a philosophy all it’s own.  While I’d love to see a 4×4 with all of these features, built with the kind of attention to detail that BMW engineers bring to bear, I can’t see it being a good use of their resources unless they plan to stick with it and stay in it for the long haul.  Reputation is a huge factor in what 4 wheeler will buy, and right now BMW has none in this sector.  I’ve owned Jeeps since I was 16 (22 years).  When treated properly, and that’s not necessarily even very well, they last for 10+ years easily and stand up to a hell of a lot of abuse.  4x4s also must be field serviceable and have readily available parts, not something BMW is known for.

    All that said, I would have loved to have seen a partnership vehicle between Jeep and BMW that used a BMW diesel and drive train and a Jeep suspension and chassis, but with an eye toward ease of maintenance and field serviceability.  With the marriage of Fiat and Chrysler now, it’s pretty much just a fantasy.  Hopefully Fiat’s emphasis on putting diesels into the whole Jeep line is genuine and they provide really reliable, powerful motors for what are otherwise great off road vehicles.

    • Ricky Calo says:

      That pretty much sums it up, however I’m willing to bet the X6 had summer tires in the snow scene.

    • Clay says:

      LOL that was awesome 

    • Mose121 says:

      Traction comes down to one thing, how good your tires are at the specific task at hand.  BMW uses high performance summer tires on that vehicle.  If you put BFG all terrains on it the on road handling would be garbage but it would go anywhere most other SUV’s will.  Remember that alot of BMW’s AWD technology came from the technology they acquired when they owned Land Rover.  That’s not a bad starting place.  But remember, it’s all about the kind of tires you have.  You can get around in a M3 track car in the snow just fine with snow tires.  Ask me how I know…

  13. M3power says:

    Unless they can big one as good (if not better) than a Range Rover or Jeep, don’t bother. 

    • empower says:

      bmw did such a good job with range rover ford nor tata have brought out a new one, and besides the mini country man just won the hardest off road race one earth the dakar,  

    • empower says:

      bmw did such a good job with range rover ford nor tata have brought out a new one, and besides the mini country man just won the hardest off road race one earth the dakar,  

  14. Snogger says:

    This is like asking if Ferrari should get into the soccer mom van market.

    • Shawn says:

      I disagree, Snogger.  First of all, BMW has already sold their soul to the share holders.  They are soon to produce fwd cars – a rwd soccer mom van would be closer to the brand’s historical values than fwd.  Furthermore, BMW is already in the SUV market – building a pure, extreme off road model would only legitimize their SUV program in my opinion.  Yes, the current lineup is great on road, but that’s hardly the point of building an awd SUV with additional ride height and ground clearance.  Look to Range Rover to see how an SUV can perform both on and off road, with luxury and style.   

      Consider the G wagon and the cachet that vehicle captures – it is borderline exotic by some standards, particularly when loaded w all features in glossy black paint.  There is something intimidating about it – and that type of road presence is entirely lacking from the current xdrive lineup.  

      • Snogger says:

        Ahh I see, I don’t consider either the Range Rover or the G to be ‘extreme off road’ machines.  With questions like this I look to precedence.  Why hasn’t anyone done it yet?  Because it can’t be done, the compromises made to make a serious off road machine make it a terrible off road machine.  

        As the article points out people that buy SUV’s rarely take them off road, so sacrificing any on road manners to prove a point would be unacceptable to BMW customers and it wouldn’t sell.  People that buy Range Rovers don’t do so to take it to the local off roading club meet (though they do have some off road capability) and people that buy G wagons don’t live 40 miles off paved roads in Alaska.

        Here’s some data to think about.  A H1 hummer has the following specs
        approach angle of 72 degrees
        departure angle of 37.5 degrees
        break over angle of 32.5 degrees 

        And now a Range Rover
        Approach Angle 34 deg Departure Angle HSE: 29 deg with spare tire. Supercharged: 27 deg w/spare tireBreakover Angle 25 deg (Hi Profile) 

        They’re simply not in the same category so they shouldn’t be lumped together.  If BWM wanted to make something more inline with a Range Rover then that’s fine, but don’t consider a Range Rover a hardcore off road machine.  That’s a marketing ploy.

  15. bmwjoey says:

    I think they can do it. It’s not their specialty but they have great engineers so they are the only one besides Mercedes-Benz who may be able to pull it off. Its like these guys at http://www.jfseostudio.com who who on search engines and build websites. Two very different engineering feats.

  16. great idea only these guys would pull it off even though they are not know for off roaders. It would stretch them a little thin.

  17. Tord says:

    A unique quality of BMW is that throughout its model range, the focus on elegance and some degree of performance is present, from the smallest 1-series to the largest 7. If rugged off-road capabilities are in focus, this will most certainly come at the expense of body panel, wheel, wheel arch and bumper design. No need to have elegant interiors either…they just need to be washable. Engineering wise, on-road capabilities will be poorer, too. I fear that all these factors combined will dilute the brand’s values, and lead BMW into new markets where it should not be present, including pure cargo vans and similar trucks. If necessary, introduce a new brand to take care of the off-road and commercial vehicle bit. “Bayerwagen”, “Zugspitzzug”, “Garmischwagen” or something like that.

  18. BMWfan0000 says:

    Personally, I’dlove to see a super off-roader from BMW, but more than anything I’d like to see a safety system that activates the brakes also in case of a potential collision with a pedestrian, which only exists at Volvo!

  19. Mose121 says:

    2 door manual trans diesel X3 Dakar rally homologation special edition model please.  Uh huh.

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