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BMW: BMW X coupé Concept

BMW X coupe Concept
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NAIAS 2001

In a surprising debut at the 2001 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, BMW is giving its newest concept vehicle a world premiere: the BMW X coupe. For anyone still thinking that the automotive world can be divided neatly into familiar categories, it may be time to rethink. This utterly driver-oriented coupe doesn’t merely introduce a totally new design concept; it also embodies a brand-new vision.


The energy of tension

At the very first glance, this impressive new vehicle with aluminum skin in Highland Silver shows that BMW is opening a new chapter in vehicle design.

From a pure styling standpoint, the X coupe is dramatically different from anything BMW has ever created – a logical next step in the evolution of BMW design. The designers have charged this shape with a high-energy field of tension.

Indeed, an element of tension in its products is at the core of what has made BMW so successful: tension between perfection and emotion. This element became a starting point for a new "language of forms" that reflects the high-tech – and highly emotional – character of this sport coupe. Seen as a foil to the two Z9 concept vehicles, which embody new interpretations for luxury cars, the X coupe points to a new design direction for the segment of sporty, lifestyle-oriented vehicles.

BMW X coupe Concept BMW X coupe Concept
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The X coupe purposely plays the role of automotive iconoclast. It does not shy away from what might be considered paradoxes or contradictions: a coupe that can go off-road… a sport coupe with diesel engine… asymmetries on its exterior and in its interior. 

BMW X coupe Concept
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Surfaces that turn in on themselves, or can change their shape – these and other elements don’t fit into the usual scheme of things.

Thus the X coupe leaves beaten paths of auto design, just as it is also able to leave the beaten paths of auto driving and head confidently off-road.

It only seems unlikely: a coupe and an X in one vehicle.

Begin with preconceptions: A coupe is a vehicle with sporty styling and driving character. (Correct.) A coupe is only for driving on the road. (Wrong, as the X coupe shows.) The very fact that the worlds of coupes and sport-utilities seemed so completely removed from each other – this was a challenge to the BMW designers involved
in this project.

BMW X coupe Concept
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The coupe, as the ultimate expression of the sporty vehicle, has traditionally been built for athletic driving on the road.

Yet just as modern athletics are no longer limited to the coliseum or playing field, no longer must sporty driving be limited to just the road.

This analogy is key to the X coupe’s character: it is the outdoor sports gear among coupes. In its concept and every detail are the spirit of sports such as mountain biking, carving or wakeboarding. It is high-tech gear for all terrain – a means of escaping the everyday routine, for discovering adventure. And like other high-caliber sports equipment, the X coupe visually displays its capabilities: confidently, expressively, and with details that reveal and underscore its function.

A new design language, arising from a long tradition.

As the X coupe’s exterior design first reveals itself to the beholder, in all likelihood it takes his or her breath away. After all, this is a design utterly different from anything BMW has ever done. And yet this study, as becomes apparent upon further consideration, is firmly rooted in BMW tradition. After all, since time immemorial BMW has been a symbol for mature, highly developed, sporting automobiles and motorcycles. In turn, their cultivated performance, perfected functionality and high quality are evidence of the precision and dedication with which the BMW’s creative people approach their work.

Dynamics as in a classical symphony.

Even with this rather turbulent flow, the "catwalk" just described forms a decisive, and in no way inharmonious, element in the X coupe’s overall visual image. The light reflected from it – for designers, a be-all and end-all – calls to mind the oscillogram of a classical symphony: Adagio and staccato in rapid interplay, captivating the listener as does the X coupe its admirer.

Countless other Flame Surfaces appear in small details and major elements – the side sills, for example – to form a coherent overall shape. True harmony allows neither purpose nor goal to take precedence over all else. Instead, the Flame Surfaces and the tension they create lead to a harmonious total impression this vehicle makes. Think of the tension of drawing the bow before shooting the arrow, or the vigilant repose of a hunting animal before springing on its prey.

Inherent in the X coupe’s design language is an understanding of classic BMW design elements; yet these elements are newly interpreted. Perforated aluminum gives the "kidneys" grille a sporting lightness; large quad headlights impart a "face" full of attention and readiness to spring into action. The traditional "reverse kink" in the C-pillar fits perfectly into the X coupe’s new design language.

For the driver: a unique seating concept.

BMW X coupe Concept
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The X coupe is just as innovative inside as it is outside. It is a true driver’s car, and offers its driver an appropriate environment and scope of equipment for that role.

Behind the wheel, an unusual seating position imparts a feeling of being in control of high-end sports gear:



One senses the advantages of both an SAV and a coupe, with the commanding position of the former and the seating feel of a sport coupe. Thanks to adjustable pedals, drivers of extra-large or small stature need not sacrifice any of this unique feeling.

Sport front seats offer ample lateral support at the back and thighs. Because of the high ground clearance, the seats are relatively high; thus to ease entry and exit, their prominent side bolsters are cut out deeply in the pelvis area.

Uncompromisingly driver-oriented.

This is more a 1+3-seater than a traditional 2+2. Everything near the driver is uncompromisingly oriented to the driver, whose "working space" is clearly delineated from the front passenger’s space. This reflects not just the vehicle concept, but the entire design philosophy at play here… once again, a philosophy that expresses itself in terms of a balance of contrasts.

The center console serves to separate the driver’s space. All instruments are arranged according to a sportily oriented ergonomics concept to be read quickly. As some displays are of interest only to the driver, they are arranged and designed to be visible only to him or her – for example the engine-temperature and fuel readouts in the left door.

Flexible surfaces give a look behind the scenes.

One of these controls is the key to yet another remarkable feature
of the interior. When a low-mounted lever on the center console
is moved downward, the neoprene-covered, flexible surface of the dash changes its shape, opening up like a sort of "mouth" and giving the driver a view of the color monitor of a multi-function control system. Here, Flame Surfacing has taken another step: Static surface tension gives way to a tension of motion revealing something that had been hidden.

Intuitive control concept with off-road navigation.

The controller, ergonomically positioned on the center console, gives the driver and front passenger mastery over multiple functions. By moving, turning and pressing downward on the controller, one selects which category of functions will be displayed on the color monitor, then controls those functions. This control concept of the future was first shown in the Z9 coupe show vehicle, and more recently appears in the Z9 cabriolet concept car. For the X coupe,it has been specially tailored: GPS Navigation functions, for example, operate off- as well as on-road.

A sporty turbodiesel engine under the hood.

The X coupe is not just a show sculpture; it is driveable, and based on the chassis of BMW’s production Sports Activity Vehicle, the X5. Under the coupe’s long, one-piece hood is an advanced BMW turbodiesel engine: the 3.0-liter, six-cylinder unit of the European 530d model, with state-of-the-art common-rail direct fuel injection, developing 184 horsepower. Beyond the production engine, the X coupe’s powerplant has been modified to produce a brawny 332 lb-ft. of torque; this speaks well for off-road ability, and top speed should be somewhere around 125 mph.

A 5-speed STEPTRONIC automatic transmission takes the drive from the turbodiesel to the X coupe’s four wheels; shifting is programmed for sporty performance and driving pleasure.

As a member of the BMW X family, the coupe naturally has all traction and stability-enhancing systems on board, from All Season Traction (AST) for all-wheel drive through Dynamic Stability Control (DSC-X) to the remarkable Hill Descent Control (HDC).

January 10, 2001

Photos: BMW AG


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