BMW unveils concept previewing 9-series flagship

The Vision Future Luxury concept has carbon-fiber bars that serve as B-pillars. They are barely noticeable when the doors are open.
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BEIJING -- BMW's Vision Future Luxury concept car closely previews a new brand flagship that will go on sale in global markets called the 9 series.

The concept was unveiled at the Beijing auto show today. The 9-series production version is expected in 2016 as a rival to the S600 Maybach, a top-end version of the S-class sedan, which Mercedes-Benz will debut at the Guangzhou and Los Angeles auto shows in November.

The 9 series will be BMW’s largest model with a length of about 5500mm (216 inches), about 280mm more than the long-wheelbase 7 series. The extra length will boost the car’s appeal in markets such as China where most top executives have chauffeurs.

BMW Group design director Adrian van Hooydonk said the Vision Future Luxury concept hints give “a long-term outlook on the perception of modern luxury for the brand,” but is not a production-ready model.

Features likely to appear in future production BMWs include ultra-thin laser headlamps, organic LED tail tamps, a more sculptured trunk design and tailpipes that are completely integrated into the rear bumper.

The Vision Future Luxury’s most striking feature is that it does not have full B-pillars. Lightweight carbon-fiber bars serve as B-pillars, connecting the front and rear windows when the doors close. But below the belt line, the B-pillars morph into a carbon fiber seat frame that is integrated into the load-bearing structure.

The B-pillar is barely noticeable when the doors are open, but provides adequate body rigidity and side impact protection without adding much weight, BMW says.

The use of carbon B-pillars also means that the concept has wide-opening coach doors without a heavy weight penalty seen on ultra-luxury models with wide doors such as the Roll-Royce Ghost.

The feature will not appear in the 9 series production car, but BMW will continue its development for possible use in future models.

Inside the Vision Future Luxury concept, BMW said it applied a design principle it calls “subtractive modeling,” which involves fusing together thin layers of carbon fabric, aluminum and wood and leather to make lightweight interior parts.

Instead of a central information display for driver and front passenger, the concept has separate displays for driver and passenger. Information can be exchanged between the driver and front passenger via a touch-sensitive panel.

Applications such as booking show tickets online via the BMW ConnectedDrive Luxury Concierge service can be displayed on the passenger display, without distracting the driver.

Two rear-seat displays are housed carbon-fiber shells. There is also a detachable rear seat touch command tablet. The display screens in the rear can communicate with the front displays and also with the BMW ConnectedDrive services, allowing rear passengers to access online entertainment content such as video and music streaming.

You can reach Luca Ciferri at lciferri@crain.com.

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