As big as a 3 Series, but with the wheelbase of the 7 Series.
Name: BMW Z22
Specs: four-cylinder gasoline engine with 136 horsepower, continuously variable transmission, rear-wheel drive, carbon fiber reinforced plastic passenger cell, steer-by-wire, brake-by-wire
Why We Remember It Now:
Thanks to its “70 technical innovations and 61 pioneering inventions,” the BMW Z22 has made the cut in our weekly Concept We Forgot series.
Developed by BMW Technik GmbH, the Z22 was a technological tour de force when it came out 18 years ago. Packed with everything from a head-up display to side cameras and even a fingerprint scanner built into the steering wheel, the concept was one of the most advanced projects developed by BMW’s think tank. It had adaptive headlights linked to the steering angle and used both brake-by-wire and steer-by-wire systems.
Ok, it might not be as beautiful as the 507 roadster from the late 1950s, but then again the series is not called the “Most Beautiful Concepts We Forgot.” Billed as being a “masterpiece in mechatronic design,” the Z22 had just about the same footprint as a 3 Series (E46), but with the wheelbase of a 7 Series (E38). How was that possible? Just look at those tiny front and rear overhangs. Since the distance between the two axles was similar to BMW’s fullsize sedan, it goes without saying the amount of available room inside the cabin was comparable to the flagship. At the same time, the concept was about one third lighter than a 528i Touring (E39).
Made entirely out of carbon fiber reinforced plastic, the Z22’s passenger cell had many things in common with the monocoque chassis of an F1 car. Thanks to the CFRP construction, it ended up being roughly 30 percent lighter than an aluminum cell and contributed to the low, yet unspecified weight of the concept.
Its interior can be best described like an i3’s cabin from the late 1990s, with very few physical controls. It did not have a conventional instrument cluster as all the info was shown onto a large central screen installed on the dashboard while the rearview mirror was replaced by another digital display. The fingerprint scanner we’ve mentioned earlier served as a substitute for the ignition key.
BMW didn’t say anything about the car’s performances, but mentioned the concept had a four-cylinder gasoline engine delivering 136 horsepower (100 kW) to the rear wheels through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The Z22 was rated with an average fuel consumption of 6 liters / 100 km (39.2 mpg).
Although it was never meant to be a production-intent concept, the Z22 was fully functional. The idea behind it was to cram as much technology as possible in a car the size of a compact hatchback.