In just a few hours, some parts of the world will enter a new year and on this occasion we are taking another look back at this year in BMW’s world. In 2012 BMW has brought to market several models, from the high-volume seller 3 Series to the new M6 models, but what captured our attention this year were the innovations and new technology developer by the engineers of Bavaria.
BMWBLOG team compiled a list of some of the most interesting tech that we have seen or experimented in 2012.
Manny Antunes – “The new BMW iDrive”
My vote for best technology made its world debut this past summer. The updated iDrive controller with it’s updated user interface “ConnectedDrive” and touch interface on the top of the iDrive knob will take BMW’s iDrive to the next level of infotainment.
The new interface will see production in August of 2013 across most models starting with the upper range models but more importantly with the redesigned X5.
This redesigned piece of technology is important for the brand because users are finding touch pads across a variety of favorite devices such as their mobile phones and tablets, so it’s an easy adaptation for users. It will also make using BMW’s Connected Drive features across all models the same, so no matter whether you’re driving a top of the range i8 Spyder or a 1 Series, integrating your digital lifestyle will be a uniform experience.
Hugo Becker – “Pressing Operations”
BMW seems hell bent for leather on filling market niches with premium offerings, even to the point of creating a niche if need be (5 GT) and that is a challenge to production processes. There are F code 7s, 6s, 5s, 3s, and 1s and continuing production of E code 3s and 1s. There are a plethora of X models and a Z thrown in for good measure (whose sales volumes continue to disappoint). Soon to market are the 4s, 2s, and FWD 1s. All in 2,3, and 5 door, Touring, LWB, GT, and Gran Coupe variants requiring different ‘skins’.
This product proliferation puts a strain on production resources and pulling panels for so many variants is problematic without highly refined pressing operations. BMW is essentially an engineering company, but its engineers are not only employed in developing engines and chassis, but also in building the production capabilities to create small batches of highly developed, ultimate driving machines.
BMWBLOG was given an opportunity to examine the Leipzig plant in operation earlier this year and we came away suitably impressed with the plant’s ability to press body panels on demand for a wide variety of different vehicles. The key to making this work for BMW is the right technology (Schuler presses), the right design (the shop floor layout was perfect), and highly skilled and trained people that can accomplish what not so long ago was thought to be impossible.
It is this dedication to perfecting the production processes that leads me to nominate BMW’s production facilities (and pressing operations in particular) for tech innovation of the year.
Chuck Vossler – “The Tri-Turbo Diesel Engine”
Initially announced at the March 2012 International Geneva Motor Show and promptly put into production in the M550d, X6 M50d and X5 M50d’s, the N57TU Super Engine tri-turbo diesel is my choice. This motor on paper sounds unparalleled with its 381 hp (280kW) at 4000 rpm and it’s 546 ft-lbs of torque coming from just a 3.0 litre motor. Initial off the line boost from its 600rpm idle is handled by the first of two small turbos. The large turbo kicks in the middle of the rev range and just when the large turbo is running out of steam, the 3rd and final turbo. a small high pressure one, takes you to the top.
A lot of technology but the end results is unlike any diesel I’ve ever driven. Most diesels tend to die at their upper rev range, but not this one, it pulls hard all the way to redline in a seamless locomotive wave of unending thrust. The best part? This November BMW announced a 20 hp bump which will sometime next year. More power and efficiency from a small motor, what an incredible way to bring efficient dynamics to life.
Horatiu Boeriu & Andrew Murphy – “BMW 3 Cylinder Engine”
I have personally experienced the 3 cylinder engine in Munich this year and have been blown away by the technology and sound of the little 1.5 liter engine. The “Baby-Six” is a 1.5 liter three-cylinder turbocharged engine built on the 500cc per cylinder architecture. The compact engine has the same genes as the award-winning 3.0 liter six-cylinder unit. (Test Drive: BMW 1 Series with 3-cylinder engine)
The new family of three-cylinder engines was introduced this week and will play an important role in BMW’s EfficientDynamics strategy in the upcoming years. The compact unit is a prime candidate for a wide range of vehicles and powertrains, from rear-wheel drive to the upcoming front-wheel drive and plugin hybrids. The 1 Series and 3 Series, along with upcoming compact models, are a great match for this type of engine.