As one of the top luxury vehicle manufacturers in the world, BMW has been unveiling concept cars since 1949. So far, in the 21st century the German automaker has trudged on, incorporating new technologies meant to further advance the automotive industry as a whole.
Perhaps no other BMW concept car in recent times has gotten more attention than the open-top i8 convertible. First unveiled at the 2011 Frankfurt Show, the i8 is designed as a sporty plug-in hybrid. Its hybrid system consists of a 3-cylinder turbo-diesel engine and lithium-ion electric motor, which combine for an output of 349 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. The i8 adheres to its manufacturer’s LifeDrive architectural philosophy, which consists of two purpose-built modules: one for accommodating passengers (“Life”) and the other for propulsion and suspension components (“Drive”). “Life” represents the car’s architecture, which consists of a carbon-fiber skeleton dressed up in thermoplastic exterior panels. The “Drive” components are mainly made of aluminum. The LifeDrive branding thus promotes a car with virtually 50/50 weight distribution, optimal aerodynamics, and top-notch energy efficiency. According to BMW, the i8 has a top speed of 250 kph and can accelerate from 0 to 97 kph in less than five seconds. Peak combined fuel economy is expected to be near 17 km/L.
The BMW i8 is not alone. Accompanying it is the BMW 328 Homage, appropriately named due to vehicle’s aesthetic nod to its namesake, which was produced from 1936 to 1940. Once of the greatest sports cars of all time, the 328 was named a top 25 finalist for the title of “Car of the Century” by a panel of automotive journalists. And the Homage resurrects many of the characteristics of this celebrated vehicle: paddle-shaped kidney grille, light-alloy wheels with 20 holes, and subtle and unobtrustive interior design. The car, however, is given a modern sheen of driving dynamics, a skin of carbon fiber reinforced plastic, and a sturdy yet lightweight construction.
Named after the acronym for “Geometry and Function In ‘N’ (infinite Adaptations,” the GINA is a probable glimpse into the future of car production features. Discarding rigid metal material, the GINA sports a lighter fabric skin instead, thus pushing the boundaries of its flexibility. Not that BMW completely abandons metal, though; the material is still beneath the fabric surface to enforce the GINA’s shape, edges and openings. Also included in the GINA is its more humanistic aura; through its several advanced components (including headlights), the automobile—more than ever—functions like a human being.
I3 CONCEPT COUPE
Like its concept car siblings, the i3 Concept Coupe makes extensive use of carbon fiber. Its true calling card, however, is its all-electric drivetrain; it is solely powered by an electric motor that produces 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. The i3’s unique drivetrain enables a range of 80 to 100 miles on a single charge.
Sure, BMW has been producing the mid-size X5 SUV since 1999. However, it never got a plug-in hybrid variant—until now. With an all-electric mode, it generates zero emissions, thus vaulting it into enviable fuel efficiency status. There’s more than just the fuel economy boost, though; the X5 eDrive is also updated with air curtains and air blades for a more aerodynamic feel.
CONCEPT ACTIVE TOURER
A smaller relative of the X5 eDrive, the BMW Concept Active Tourer is a plug-in hybrid that maintains a significant level of sportiness and space. Its greatest trait is the “cool shade” panoramic roof, which is made of composite glass and enables the driver to easily adjust the interior brightness and temperature.
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