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Bavaria's automaker regularly produces some of the most stunning concept cars. Some look forward and some look backward, but here are six of the most notable from the past few years.
An automaker can make a concept car to preview a new model that isn't quite ready for production just yet, or it can make a concept to showcase where it's going and what it stands for in a broader sense. Of course BMW is no exception, though its concept cars can sometimes prove quite exceptional. Here we take a look back on the concepts which BMW calls its Vision Cars. Over the past few years alone the Bavarian automaker has unveiled quite a number, and all of them have been quite stunning.
Our journey starts with the 2006 BMW Concept Coupe Mille Miglia, A contemporary interpretation of the 1940 BMW 328 Mille Miglia Touring Coupe, the modern MM sought to demonstrate what the German automaker's team of designers could do when not shackled to any specific production parameters. The result looked like something that the HYDRA villains from Captain America might have dreamt up, with a curvaceous silver body with retro touches like leather straps and functional hood latches holding down the bonnet. The rear wheels are covered and the split-window greenhouse shaped like a teardrop for visual aerodynamic efficiency.
Two years after the Mille Miglia concept, BMW revealed the GINA Light showcar that featured advanced textile bodywork instead of metal. The Spandex fabric was stretched over the aluminum wire frame and gathered like a garment as the doors opened but returning to its form when closed. It even featured a deployable rear spoiler that simply stretched the fabric to shape in order to optimize aerodynamics, and headlights revealed by pulling back the fabric like eyelids. Of course this alternative take on a car's bodywork could hardly be put into production, but that's exactly the point: the GINA Light concept was and remains a flight of fantasy.
That same year BMW paid tribute to the only real supercar it ever made with the M1 Hommage. The original M1 was an advanced mid-engine exotic designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro and developed in conjunction with Lamborghini. The M1 Hommage celebrated the original's 30th anniversary when it was unveiled in 2008 at the prestigious Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este, bearing 70s retro design cues on a thoroughly modern shape. The emergence of the show car spurred rumors that BMW was planning to produce a new mid-engined supercar to rival the Audi R8, but over four years later, no such vehicle has emerged.
The Vision EfficientDynamics concept of 2009 was perhaps the closest preview of a production model of all of these, leading to the i8 hybrid supercar that will soon be headed to showrooms. The svelte exotic shape doesn't house a high-revving internal combustion engine as the design might otherwise suggest, but a three-cylinder turbodiesel assisted by a pair of electric motors. The chassis is formed from aluminum and draped in body-panels and windows alike made of polycarbonate shaped for a low drag coefficient of just 0.22. By comparison, the Toyota Prius has a 0.25 Cd, while BMW's own E90-generation 3 Series sedan cuts the air at 0.26.
BMW once again paid tribute to one of its own classics with the 328 Hommage concept in 2011, this time celebrating the 75th anniversary of the legendary 328 racecar. The resulting show car was enough to make even the retro freaks at Wiesmann blush. The 328 Hommage was made of carbon-reinforced plastic that was left bare to showcase its black weave. The open body-style let the rich tan leather contrast beautifully with the carbon bodywork, echoed by leather straps along the flank and atop the bonnet. Aluminum details accentuated both the interior and exterior of the car in a two-seat roadster that was at once both imposing and sleek.
Finally the Vision ConnectedDrive showcased BMW's latest electronic technologies in an exciting shape, without which its advanced systems may have gone unnoticed. Debuting at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, the Vision ConnectedDrive featured doors like those on the 1989 BMW Z1 roadster that split top and bottom to slide forward and downward, respectively, to grant access to the two-seat open cockpit. The ConnectedDrive concept, however, was all about the technologies it packs, with a 3D head-up display, fully customizably instrument cluster, online-connected navigation system, adaptable ambient mood lighting and more.