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BMW Vision concept

Stephen Dobie
30 Aug 2009

It's the M3 of the future - a 3-cylinder diesel hybrid that showcases BMW technology

Meet the BMW M3 of the future. This is the Vision EfficientDynamics, an eye-grabbing concept that will debut at next month’s Frankfurt motor show and which showcases a host of the brand’s existing and future technologies.

BMW describes it as a 'symbol for the future of sheer driving pleasure', and says it can combine the performance of a BMW M Car with a standard of fuel economy exceeding the market’s current small cars.

M Division purists may need a good sit down first, though, because the similarities between this and the current M3 pretty much end at the four wheels and fitment of propeller badges.

The headlines go to the Vision’s powertrain – it’s a diesel electric hybrid. And it’s not just any run-of-the-mill diesel that features; it’s a 1.5-litre, 3-cylinder turbo unit. While combined with the two electric motors it produces a more than potent 351bhp and 590lb ft, it’s a power source that would struggle to differ further from the rev-happy naturally aspirated petrol engines that have been a hallmark of past M Cars.

There’s an electric motor at both front and rear axles, aiding weight distribution but also sparking more debate – the Vision is effectively all-wheel drive. The engine is mid-mounted (despite there being two back seats) and comes mated to a six-speed dual-clutch transmission, a newly developed (and economy-biased) version of the gearbox that sits in current BMWs.

Interestingly, the car’s key performance figures are identical to the current M3 Coupe. Top speed is a limited 155mph, while 0-62mph takes 4.8sec. Where the old car is really embarrassed is in the sensible numbers – the Vision boasts a combined 75.1mpg and carbon emissions of 99g/km, making it a cleaner bet than a Citroen C1.

The Vision can run on electric power only (with a 31-mile range), diesel only (400 miles) or a mix of the two, with infinite variations of how the hybrid system sources its power.

Styling is very much dictated by aerodynamics, with an abundance of technology (some of it F1-inspired) to keep the drag coefficient down to just 0.22. It’s achieved via a variety of ducts and air deflectors (including the A-pillars, which channel air across the car and over the rear lights) and a completely smooth, covered underfloor. Note the signature kidney grille and twin headlights remain, allowing (from dead-on front, at least) the Vision to boast some conventionality.

Its proportions aren’t far off a present-day M3, with a 4.6m length, 1.9m width and 1.24m height playing the current car’s respective 4.5m, 1.8m and 1.4m. Where the concept excels is weight – it comes in at 1395kg, over 300kg less than an M3. While some of that will be down to a lighter powerplant, the Vision has the weight of batteries to contend with, and uses a completely aluminium chassis and suspension system and polycarbonate glass to slice mass.

As you’d expect with a showy, gullwing-doored concept there’s other trick technology to shout about too. The exhaust system contains a Thermo-Electric Generator, which converts thermal energy in the tailpipe emissions into electric power to feed back into the car. It works, too, having been tested on a 5-series mule. There’s also an energy management system, which uses a number of variables – rain sensors, information on the sat nav and the adaptive cruise control – to forecast upcoming driving conditions and prepare the car (and its power sources) for them.

It’s all very intriguing, and points the way to an impressive – if controversial – possible future for the BMW M Car. You can see which side of the fence you sit on at the Frankfurt motor show, which opens on September 15 and sees the BMW Vision EfficientDynamics concept revealed for the first time.

We will be there with full live coverage of the show, which you can preview here

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