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Car confidential: New BMW cars focus on space

BMW’s relentless growth shows no sign of slowing down: sales broke the 1m barrier for the first time in 2004. But bosses aren’t taking a breather. At Geneva, they confirmed two all-new model lines are in the pipeline.

According to the PR: “One gives new meaning to the concept of space; the second combines the raised seating of a Sports Activity Vehicle with the exterior feel of a coupe and the driving characteristics of a sporty car.”

It’s no coincidence that BMW’s announcement coincided with the unveiling of Mercedes’ B-class compact sports tourer and its bigger brother, the R-class.

The R-class is a five-door, with three rows of two seats and is the closest thing to BMW’s ‘space functional concept’ (SFC), as the suits describe the first model line.

It’s not a minivan – bosses visibly flinch at the American term, which they deem far too uncool to be an Ultimate Driving Machine. The production car is around three years away, and the package is yet to be etched in stone. It could have five, six or seven seats, but they will be mounted higher than in a 5-series Touring.

The SFC is likely to share 5-series components, including the four-wheel drivetrain of the new 530xi. And with the car being confirmed as a model series, a smaller version – to take on Merc’s B-class – should follow.

While the SFC is built in Germany, the second model series will be assembled in the States. This gives big clues about its underpinnings: the model is sure to share components with the next-generation X5, due in 2006. BMW admits the production crossover will be four-wheel drive.

As for its appearance, Audi’s Steppenwolf show car from 2000 conceptually sounds close. That looked like a jacked up TT coupe, with a chunky Allroad bodykit, 4wd and a high performance V6.

The new BMW, which could well be badged an ‘X’ model, sounds very similar. Audi is probably flattered, although it may be kicking itself, too.

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