Z3Silver Erster Beitrag: 16. Dezember 2005 Letzter Beitrag: 22. Dezember 2005 Hallo, hab ich grad bei Car an Driver aufgeschnappt: BMW Working on a Super-Z Hopes its next super-expensive attempt won't be met with zzzzzzzs. BY WALLACE WYSS PHOTOGRAPHY RON WEICKART January 2006 Our artist’s rendition of what the next BMW Z might look like (above). Any BMW with the letter Z in its namesake has, until now, been a two-seater. But BMW wants to get a new Z back into the $140,000 to $200,000 luxury segment. Why? Because since BMW stopped building the Z8 roadster in 2003, the pricey niche has expanded. Strong sales of the extremely profitable $150,000 Bentley Continental GT are certainly envied by other automakers. In this age of overnight millionaires and astonishing prices, there are now about 20 glorious automobiles that sell for $150,000 and up, a fact that must be causing a horrendous amount of teeth grinding in Munich because BMW doesn’t have a two-seater in that price class. Not that BMW hasn’t been trying. But the retro-inspired Z8 turned out to be a disappointment, selling fewer than 6000 copies from 1999 to 2003. Back then, $130,000 for a Bimmer seemed like a lot of money. The Z8 was preceded by another beautiful dud, the Z1, which was unveiled at the 1987 Frankfurt show. BMW claimed to have 5000 orders before a fender had been shaped, but then the market disappeared. Roughly 8000 were sold in all. The Z in Z1 stood for Zukunft (German for “future”), and it would later be attached to other cars in the line—Z3, Z4, and Z8—all sporty two-door roadsters. Blame the Z1’s failure on an outrageous sticker for the time (about $45,000 in Germany), low production capacity (20 a day), unusual plastic construction, and odd retracting doors. Plus, it was never exported to the U.S. because federal certification costs would have sent the price here to the moon. Another two-seater flop was the M1, built from 1978 to ’81. One of Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro’s more forgettable projects, it had a terrific and powerful inline six-cylinder powerplant, but Ferrari had a V-8, a V-12, and a flat-12, and Maserati had a V-8. And once again, there was no serious attempt to sell it in the U.S. Just 456 were built. You can trace BMW’s trail of tears with two-seaters all the way back to the 507 built between 1956 and ’59. Absurdly high-priced, it had a fragile aluminum-block 3.2-liter V-8 rated at a ho-hum 150 horsepower. The only significant thing about it was that BMW managed to palm one off to an impressionable American soldier stationed in Germany, one Army Private First Class E.A. Presley. But hope springs eternal. BMW is burning the midnight oil to develop a supercar, code-named Z10. Gearhead prognosticators figure it’ll be a front-engined two-seater sports car if the competing target is Aston’s 444-hp, V-12–endowed DB9. What BMW covets about the DB9 is the fact that it sells for about $160,000 and there’s a yearlong waiting list. Others speculate that the Z10 will be mid-engined, the expressed preference of a key member of the overseeing BMW board, Burkhard Göschel, who feels it’s the only way to go. He might be looking at the success of Ford with its GT, which, though listed initially at $139,995, is desirable enough that Ford was able to up the official asking price to about $155,000. Göschel might also have ambitions for BMW to produce a supercar ready to capitalize on the company’s new increased involvement in Formula 1 racing. (BMW recently bought a majority stake in the Sauber F1 team based in Switzerland.) As successful as the Z4 is, its largest available engine is a 3.0-liter six-cylinder, and the price tops out at about 45K. BMW wants a car it can charge a whole lot more for, which means a V-8 or V-10 (the latter based on that used in the M5) with about 600 horsepower and a top speed of somewhere between 170 and 200 mph. It will also have to be on the cutting edge of production-car engineering—aluminum frame, lightweight body—and maybe include a roadster version with a super-lightweight top. The final question is this: Even if BMW gets the right chassis mated to the right engine, can the Z10 survive the excesses of Chris Bangle, the American-born design director who has been a styling cause célèbre? Bangle is infamous in design circles for his obsession with what he calls “flame surfacing”—all concave and convex panels, bulges, and humps, edged by crisp lines. Each new Bangle design brings return fire from traditionalists who feel his work is overwrought and flashy. But Bangle ostensibly has the backing of the board, which wanted to move BMW’s image into the future, and that’s what he’s done, the kicking and screaming from the traditionalists notwithstanding.