Watch out Audi – BMW is gunning for the R8! Auto Express has uncovered incredible plans for a sensational two-seater roadster, set to be badged Z9. Replacing the Z8, which went out of production back in 2003, it will be BMW’s flagship supercar, sitting at the very top of the range, giving the brand some extra glamour and a rival to the R8 and Mercedes SLS.
Its taken some time for the newcomer to come to fruition, first appearing at the 2005 Los Angeles Motor Show as the California Spyder concept. A sleek, low-slung drop-top with carbon-fibre bodywork to save weight and a 700bhp BMW F1 engine, which revved to 17,000rpm.
The firm’s top brass gave the green light for production, albeit with conventional powerplants. But the economic downturn caused the California Spyder to be put on ice in 2007, and since then BMW has withdrawn from Formula One, too. But with an improving financial climate, the car is back on the cards.
As you can see from our exclusive illustrations (inspired by the sketches of the California Spyder and the stunning Vision EfficientDynamics concept from the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show), it’s no surprise that bosses want the roadster to happen.
The proportions are classic roadster: just like the smaller Z4, the driver is pushed right back to near the rear wheels, while there’s a long bonnet and tiny front and rear overhangs to give the car a real sporting character. At the back, the double-bubble deck is a retro touch similar to that on Porsche’s Boxster Spyder.
The car will feature some of the ‘layered surfacing’ design themes introduced by new styling boss, Adrian Van Hooydonk. Plus the active front splitter and rear diffuser will change shape at speed to optimise air flow around the car to improve fuel efficiency.
Key to the resurrection of the roadster project is BMW’s upcoming electric urban car. The machine will be made from carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) to save weight, developed by Seattle-based SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers. The material will be used throughout the Z9 too, making it light and very strong.The flagship roadster will use BMW’s large car platform from the 5, 6 and 7-Series. Both aluminium and magnesium will be used in the subframes and suspension to save weight, while the passenger cell, which sits on top of the chassis, will be made from CFRP. Parts of the bodywork, including the folding hardtop, will also be made from the material.
A very minimalistic design will feature inside, as in the Z8. But instead of being retro-inspired, the dash will be cutting edge, with slimmed-down air vents and touchscreen controls.
Power will no doubt come from the new 4.4-litre twin-turbo that will power the next M5. Developing 600bhp, the engine would be mated to a highly efficient twin-clutch gearbox, providing power to the rear wheels through a torque vectoring M limited slip differential.
Brake-energy regeneration and stop-start would be standard.
An electric version could appear, too, rivalling the Audi e-tron and electric Merc SLS. A production car would not arrive before 2014. But when it does, the R8 and SLS will have a fight on their hands.