Well, incredulous as the reports may have been, they were right – there will be a BMW 9 Series. Well, officially, the car shown at Auto China in Beijing today is called the BMW Vision Future Luxury, but anyone who says this concept isn’t presaging a production model Munich is working on to take on the extended-wheelbase Mercedes-Benz S-Class are kidding themselves.
The styling treads on familiar BMW ground, but in a more upright and regal way. The bodywork is laid over a very long wheelbase and short overhangs to create classic front-engined, rear wheel drive proportions, accentuated by the powerful rear haunches.
There are shades of last year’s 7 Series-based Pininfarina Gran Lusso coupé concept in the slim laser headlights, the oversized double kidney grille, the low, sloping roofline, the thin, broad L-shaped tail lights (now featuring a series of L-shaped OLED panels) and the Liquid Platinum Bronze paintwork. Carbon fibre featured on the front air deflectors and the strips on the door sills hint at the car’s lightweight construction.
As with the Rolls-Royce Phantom and Ghost, the Vision Future Luxury features coach doors, this time without full B-pillar – just a small, slightly odd top-mounted half-pillar that stops at the waistline. This is possible because the monocoque – which features carbon fibre and aluminium in its construction – utilises the seat frames as load-bearing structures, connected to the door sills and centre console.
The interior showcases BMW’s vision of its future connectivity and infotainment systems, with three screens surrounding the driver. The left display shows vehicle data, the one ahead of the driver shows the speedometer and rev counter as well as contextual supplementary data, while the right display shows additional infotainment information.
Also on display is the Vision Head Up Display, which augments the driver’s view with information such as the speed limit as well as traffic light phasing, as well as highlighting certain objects such as buildings, traffic signs and road hazards. The front passenger gets their own display directly ahead of them, controlled by the touch-sensitive iDrive controller, which enables them to use applications such as the Luxury Concierge service without distracting the driver.
BMW is clearly trying to make carbon desirable to luxury car buyers – the exposed material shows up everywhere inside, forming the base of the layered interior. Laid on top are the load-bearing aluminium structures and the lime wood and brown aniline leather trim, which were then “pared down to the essentials”, supposedly cutting down on weight. The seats and lower interior have been upholstered in white leather, and the contrast of the darker and lighter materials promote a sense of warmth and spaciousness.
The rear quarters are particularly luxurious, with a pair of large, sculpted bucket seats, a retractable table and the wood-lined backs of the front seats lending a whiff of private jet about it. Passengers rest their feet in deep-pile pure silk carpet, while their eyes rest on the rear seat displays and the Rear Seat Touch Control Tablet on the rear centre console, which allow them to access BMW’s ConnectedDrive services.
As mentioned above, the BMW Vision Future Luxury concept will almost certainly lead to a 9 Series flagship, which will sit alongside the statelier Ghost in the BMW Group portfolio and will be built on the company’s new modular architecture utilising steel, aluminium and carbon fibre to shave weight. The platform will first be used on the next-generation 7 Series (codenamed G11) and will then trickle down to the rest of BMW and Rolls-Royce’s rear-biased vehicles.