Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2000 12:43:44 +1100
From: "Thomas, Andrew j" <ajthomas_at_kpmg.com.au>
Subject: [uuc] Compact Axed As BMW Readies New Z2
From Auto Express in the UK (see www.autoexpress.co.uk for the whole story):
15/3/2000 - BMW has been thrown into turmoil after company bosses ordered that the next generation 3-Series Compact must be ditched and replaced by a small sports car, labelled the Z2. According to insiders at the German firm, managers at the highest level are unhappy about the costs and performance of the new Compact. The car was due to be launched early next year, but the top brass have called for feasibility studies on making a smaller, sportier car to rival the forthcoming Mercedes SLA. The death knell sounded for the next Compact after BMW's management board drove the new model during winter testing shortly before Christmas. With the car only months away from launch, no problems had been anticipated, but insiders claim the board was far from impressed, and immediately ordered a rethink.
The main problem was with the manner in which the car drives. Based on the chassis of the current 3-Series, it was certainly refined, but not considered sufficiently sporty to attract younger buyers. Larger bodywork also meant the new Compact was 150kg heavier than the current car, blunting the entry-level 1.8-litre engine's already weak performance.
The project - dubbed E46/5-S within BMW - is set to become the Z2 and will be ready to launch in the autumn of 2002. To reduce costs, it uses the platform and engines of the axed Compact, which fixes the wheelbase, engine mounting points and windscreen position. In spite of this, a team led by the Z9 concept's designer, Chris Bangle, has succeeded in making the Z2 look stunning, either as a practical 2+2 coupé or a two-seat roadster.
The chassis will be tuned to give sporty responses, in an attempt to counter criticism that BMW has become too staid, and attract younger buyers back to the fold. In another cost-conscious move, engines were taken off the shelf, but still promise lots of performance potential. The cheaper models will be powered by the new generation of four-cylinder motors built in the UK and shared with Rover. A 2.3-litre unit from the facelifted 3-Series will also be offered, and a 2.0-litre turbodiesel will be sold in some markets, but not the UK. Later in the car's life, BMW's M-Sport division will get its hands on it, and the result is sure to worry even Porsche - a 2.2 four-cylinder engine is planned, giving 240bhp.