Many are anticipating that the future Z9 will be one of the most beautiful cars in BMW’s storied history. If the speculation as to it’s performance and price turn out to be true, it will be right up there near the top of those two lists as well.
The Z9 will be a replacement for the Z8, which has been a successful if not controversial vehicle for BMW. Jeremy Clarkson, Top Gear’s most vehement Anglophile, railed the Z8 for being left hand drive only and for not committing, in his mind at least, to being either a supercar or a roadster. Well the Z9 may not completely satisfy Mr. Clarkson either as it will surely be built as a convertible, but may also have a folding hardtop as an option and and possibly offered as a coupe. It seems the Z9 may take aim at the Ferrari 599GTB as competition, which would necessitate the coupe configuration. Pictures of the Z9 testing indicate that it is roughly the same length as the Corvette or about 15 feet long and with a larger rear trunk area than the previous Z8 to accomodate the Z9’s retractable hardtop. It’s long hood will facilitate, like the Z8, a front-mid-mounted engine that drives the rear-wheels. A variety of engines will be used for the Z9 depending on the market it is sold in. The base model will use a turbocharged, 300 horsepower 3 liter inline six-cylinder in Europe as well as a choice of diesel engine options. The base U.S. models will get the M3’s new V-8 that produces over 400 horsepower. At the top end of the power spectrum will be the engines of the M5 and M6; the 5 liter 500 horsepower V10 or possibly a 6.3 liter V12 that spins out more than 600 horsepower. Other details, such as the transmission offerings are still sketchy at this point.
While BMW has high hopes for the Z9, the field of competitors in this category is getting more crowded every day. By the time 2010 rolls around the Audi R8, Lexus LF-A, Acura NSX (or whatever they are going to call it) and a new Mercedes Benz in this class will all be jockeying for customers. At a minimum the base models will cost roughly $150,000 and the upper-level V12’s will be at least double that. BMW’s goal of selling 15,000 of these vehicles is ambitious to say the least.