See the nice pale blue wagon, another BMW we can’t have in the States? Note the apologetic pastel of that paint job… and the quieter gray of the car in the background. Germany, the home of BMW, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and Opel, is in Apology Mode: We’re sorry that our cars won’t run on unicorn farts and moonbeams. Here, where it’s legal to hit 150 mph in your new MINI (or 205 in your new Alpina B7), the industry is on the defensive.
Hence the emphasis on electric cars—the ones they’re building now or the ones they promise to build in the future.
So the Frankfurt show had BMW, among others, in the doldrums. No wonder Ferrari stayed home! And there was a hint of déjà vu as BMW banged the hydrogen drum again, this time using it not as a fuel for internal combustion but to flow through the anode of a fuel cell (the cathode using oxygen) to create electricity to power the motor that moves the car (to get to the house that Jack built?). Simple and clean, since the only byproduct is water—except for the problem BMW had with its hydrogen fleet: There is no infrastructure to supply the hydrogen. Think there’s a lack of recharging facilities for electric cars? Try to find hydrogen stations.
Still, there were a few nods to people who, you know, love cars. (We may be going extinct, but we’re not dead yet.) There’s the Vision M Next, a concept that rather resembles the old Vector, for electric-car fans who still carry a few delinquency genes.
And at least there was an insouciant nod to people interested in actual cars instead of hopeful promises (don’t give me next, give me now). By now the entire BMW-enthusiast world has weighed in on the Concept 4, specifically its giganto grille. The gobble-you-up-Jonah grille is actually a nod to the car’s development as an electric platform; it provides a space for all the sensors and cameras needed for tomorrow’s semi-autonomous vehicle.
But the car is also clearly aligned with BMW’s policy of using any of its platforms for any of its drive systems. Today there’s a MINI sharing the 300-horsepower drivetrain of the 2 Series Gran Coupé; tomorrow—and this tomorrow is not so far away—the Concept 4 may carry all-electric technology, an internal-combustion setup, or a hybrid combination of both. Meanwhile, since BMW concept models tend, like Pinocchio, to become real, expect to see the upcoming 4 Series coupe as a derivation of the show car… but perhaps with a touch of cosmetic surgery to the chin.
The best part is that BMW didn’t present the Concept 4 in Apology Gray or We’re Sorry Silver. They trotted it out defiantly in a color called Forbidden Red—but old-school hot-rodders know Candy Apple Red when we see it, and you might notice a similar theme in launch film below. Bitchin’, dudes. Just bitchin’.—Satch Carlson
[Photos and video courtesy Jon van Woerden, BMW AG.]