BMW Z9 Gran Turismo Concept

Article by Andrew Christian, on October 5, 2015

Innovations and outstanding ergonomics – these were only two of the many ways that BMW used to get your attention. With the launch of the Z9 gran turismo concept car, BMW achieved just that during this concept’s debut in North America at the 2000 New York International Auto Show.

The four-seater sports coupe, first seen in September the previous year at the 1999 Frankfurt Motor Show, hinted of what was still to come in the area of technology and design.

Advances in technology and design were evident in both its exterior and interior. Built using pioneering technologies to give it a lightweight architecture, the Z9 came with a fresh philosophy on the interaction among audio, comfort, communication, drive and other features.

Powering this model was a 3.9-liter engine – the first V8 turbodiesel engine in the world. It already made an appearance in the 740d and used common rail and direct injection that push it to deliver the highest torque ever among BMW’s production engines.

Its horsepower peaked at 245 but its maximum torque was almost unreal at 413 lb-ft. By selecting a diesel engine for its large sports coupe, BMW demonstrated how much it believes in the capabilities of its revolutionary power plant.

Exterior Design

The Z9 had a classic profile with a tail that was muscular but cut short and a hood that was lean and extended. Of course, it still had the signature BMW look, which included the dual round headlights that appeared alongside the kidney grille at the center.

Enhancing the already dynamic look of the Z9 were its massive diameter wheels, which measured 20 inches at the front and 21 inches at the rear.

Neon light was used in the front and rear turn signals. Meanwhile, light-emitting diodes were used for the rear lights. As a result, the Z9 gave an overall look that was simple and neat while still dynamic.

There’s no argument that the Z9 looked great but this sports coupe was actually also very suitable for the road. It demonstrated the future in drivetrain and construction technology.

Built with an aluminum spaceframe, the Z9 had a chassis that was light but very rigid. Another highlight was its use of weight-reducing carbon fiber body panels, which were also very strong.

In addition, it came with doors that had an unusual design, giving two ways to enter its cabin. By pressing a button on electronic key provided, the full-length gullwing doors automatically open, providing access to the front seats as well as the rear.

If you wanted to enter the typical way, the Z9 also had conventional, front-hinged doors built into each gullwing door.

Interior Design

With a self-proclaimed expertise in cockpit design, BMW took great pride in introducing a new design in the Z9 gran turismo.

Named the Intuitive Interaction Concept, this design was comparable to what’s used now in the most sophisticated aircrafts. BMW was able to minimize the usual assortment of instruments, controls, and switches.

To give you a clearer perspective, consider that a Boeing 747 cockpit in the 1970s had over 100 displays and the pilot has a wide selection of 965 knobs, dials, and switches.

But the Boeing 777 only has 6 displays and about two-thirds of those buttons have disappeared. Now going back to the Z9 – its dash just had a starter button and a light switch.

Most of the functions (about several hundred of them) could be operated from one console-mounted rotary/push button. This was easy to activate and operate functions related to communication, audio, comfort, and driving on the monitor that had four big buttons positioned in a square around a central rotary/push button.

The driver didn't even have to look at the rotary/push button during driving. Information was displayed on a big 8.8-inch monitor in the center of the dashboard with a simple graphic display.

Of course, this was separate from the speedometer and tachometer which were traditional analog devices. Since the monitor was well inside the visual field of the driver, focus could be kept to the road.

Learning the Intuitive Interaction Concept was done fast since how it categorized its functions aligns with how humans naturally think. The four categories included Drive, Comfort, Communication and Audio. Each group had the most frequent and most vital functions on the top.

The driver had a small lever on the steering column where there’s a choice between 'Drive' and 'Reverse' to engage the STEPTRONIC transmission. Buttons on the steering wheel might be used to manually shift gears.

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