Presenting the Z9 convertible at the Paris Motor Show, BMW is offering a glimpse of sheer driving pleasure enhanced to an even higher standard in future. The “heart” of this particularly impressive 2+2-seater convertible is an interior which makes motoring more simple and pleasant than ever before. Relieved of the usual chores, the driver is able to concentrate on the basic functions of motoring while nevertheless benefiting from all the features of cutting-edge automotive technology. This is the result of BMW’s trend setting iDrive ergonomics concept first presented in its fundamental con¬figuration in the Z9 gran turismo at the 1999 Frankfurt Motor Show.
Like its predecessor, the Z9 gran turismo coupé, the Z9 convertible once again represents BMW’s design philosophy of the future.
With its classic silhouette combining a long engine compartment with the short rear end, this unique convertible bears out all the dynamism of BMW design. From the front to the rear, all the car’s lines and surfaces create a feeling of excitement and tension, the highly expressive lines of the car reduced to the bare essentials exuding that characteristic BMW profile. You might well say without exaggeration that the energy of this unique car literally “flows” from front to rear. The strategy pursued in creating this design was of course to highlight and reinforce the car’s major elements, BMW design thus pointing into the future according the new philosophy of “dynamism defines design”.
At very first sight the interaction of the interior and exterior colors full of contrast clearly alludes to the outstanding character of this concept car: The dark anthracite gold metallic of the body accentuates the light cream and silver-gray interior, BMW thus focusing in particular on the area of the car the customer will experience much more intensively day in and day out than its exterior: the interior forming the very “heart” or center of sheer driving pleasure. The interior design is “open” and light, following lines clearly inspired by the world of architecture.
In technical terms the Z9 convertible follows in the footsteps of its coupé predecessor. Measuring 4,760 mm or 187.4" in length, it is slightly shorter than the coupé, but exactly as wide with its overall width measuring 1,970 mm or 77.6". Thanks to the open roof, the Z9 convertible measures exactly 1,280 mm or 50.4" in height, 60 mm or 2.4" less than the gran turismo. Wheelbase, finally, is 100 mm or 3.9" shorter at precisely 2,950 mm or 116.1".
Unlike the Z9 gran turismo, the laminated carbon outer skin of the convertible rests on an extra-strong frame guaranteeing superior stiffness also with an open car. Power is to be provided by BMW’s proven 4.4-liter V8 developing maximum output of 210 kW (286 bhp) and maximum torque of 440 Nm (324 lb-ft). 285/40 tires running on 21-inch rims at the rear convey this superior power to the road, while the front tires measure 245/45 and run on 20-inch rims. Extra-large sports brakes, finally, ensure optimum stopping power.
iDrive introduces a new definition of active motoring, occupant- and, in particular, driver-oriented ergonomics of the revolutionary standard so typical of BMW. With up to 700 different control functions now being conceivable, any conventional arrangement or concept would clearly lead to an unmanageable inflation of knobs and controllers. A further point is that modern driver assistance systems as well as numerous communication and comfort functions covering new and increasingly comprehensive purposes and applications have been introduced in the cockpits of modern cars to an increasing extent in recent years. Now, benefiting from the digitalization of electronics and communication technologies, this trend will continue at an ever-faster pace. Any attempt to operate and control all options and functions conceivable in future by means of “hard keys”, that is physical switches and control units, would by far exceed the space available around the driver. The result would inevitably be a cockpit completely overloaded with knobs and instruments, making it impossible for the driver to perform the necessary functions even if the standard of ergonomics were improved to the highest level possible. Driving pleasure as an elementary experience appreciated so much by the BMW customer would therefore become quite inconceivable.
Recognizing this problem and its consequences, BMW has consistently re-analyzed all features of the man/machine interface – the function and information channels between the driver and his car – in the process carefully checking their structures from the ground up. The amazingly simple result is that the innumerable functions and the flow of information to which the driver requires access merely have to be tailored to each specific driving situation in accordance with their significance, that is according to current requirements. A further point is that this re-configuration must be intuitive, allowing the driver to perform the necessary functions without having to search for a long time and therefore without being distracted from his actual job – and, of course, from the motoring pleasure he wishes to enjoy.
The result of this new perspective covering all function areas is to structure the functions on three levels, depending on the frequency of the applications involved and their relevance to motoring. The basic functions most significant for motoring and safety on the road are moved to the direct vicinity of the driver. All driving functions are in the area around the steering wheel, offering the driver direct, immediate access. Basic functions frequently used and therefore also requiring rapid access come on a second level and are controlled by conventional switches on the instrument panel – for example the lights switch or basic comfort functions such as the temperature setting on the automatic air conditioning.
Enhanced comfort, communication and driver assistance functions account for by far the largest share of new options and features in a modern car. Precisely these functions and settings, however, are only rarely adjusted while driving – although again the information they provide must be rapidly available at any time. These requirements are therefore perfectly fulfilled by the Control Center comprising all of these functions in a logical, ergonomically optimized arrangement allowing intuitive control by the driver. The monitor directly in the driver’s line of vision provides all the information required at any time, without taking the driver’s attention away from the road, since the monitor, unlike other display concepts, is fitted in the direct vicinity of the driver’s line of vision to the road ahead. Through its simple and intuitive control, finally, the operation unit in the center console gives the driver direct access to the many function, information and communication options he will be enjoying in future.
A detailed look at the Z9 convertible reveals the options and possibilities offered by this new dimension of driver-oriented ergonomics: The area around the steering wheel allows active motoring without the slightest impairment, since the driver, using the control units on the steering wheel, has all functions relevant to motoring right there at his fingertips for direct, convenient control. On the steering column there are four levers for the direction indicators, screen wipers, Cruise/Control, and the automatic transmission with the selector lever for direct activation of the P, R, N, and D functions. A corresponding display between the speedometer and the rev counter then presents the transmission program currently in use.
Pressing the new Steptronic buttons once in the thumb area of the multifunction steering wheel, you then switch from automatic to manual transmission control, pressing the button a second time in order to shift gears. Further displays for the navigation system and Active Cruise Control (ACC) are integrated in the speedometer and rev counter, consistently supplying the driver with the most important information of relevance on the road, without requiring him to take his eyes off the traffic around him for an extended period of time.
Other elementary functions required in motoring at short notice, but not calling for the driver’s permanent attention, are integrated in the center console, offering easy access to both the driver and the front passenger: rotary knobs for the heating and ventilation system separated for each side of the passenger compartment as well as switches for hazard warning flashers, rear window heating, and volume control.
One of the most important elements within the Z9 convertible’s innovative control and display concept is the Control Center made up of the Controller and Control Display and serving to operate a whole range of different functions. The Controller is a particularly handy, easy-to-use control and operation unit at the front end of the center armrest allowing the same intuitive control as the gearshift lever on a conventional car. All the driver has to do in order to enter his commands is press the Controller forwards and backwards, to the left and to the right, and in the four diagonal directions, or to turn and press down the Controller in order to select and operate the various menu functions.
Like a gearshift lever, the Controller has specific functions whenever moved from its central position to one of its operating positions. Using the Controller, the driver is able to choose 8 function areas in exactly the same way as if he were shifting gears: communication, climate control, entertainment and the drive mode in the four main directions, information, configuration, vehicle functions and the help mode when moving the Controller diagonally. All 8 areas are presented graphically in the Control Display within perfect view of the driver and front passenger in the top center of the instrument panel. Conducting a dialogue mode, the driver is therefore able to directly choose all of the 8 function areas, each of which is shown permanently on the outer frame of the screen. Then, turning and pressing the Controller, the driver is able to select the desired settings within the function area he has activated. This rotary knob/ push button control mode was already introduced by BMW with the first navigation system and is acknowledged to this day as highly user-friendly within the car. A further benefit of this control system for the driver is that the system is already pre-set to the menu used last whenever the driver selects the same function area again.
iDrive is a major step from purely physical ergonomics in the cockpit towards an all-round driving philosophy arranging all modern comfort, communication and driver assistance systems directly around the driver for his maximum convenience and easy use at any time. And at the same time iDrive offers new freedom and motoring pleasure, enabling the BMW driver to enjoy all the highlights of active motoring without in any way foregoing the motoring comfort he rightly expects today. And last but certainly not least, iDrive gives free rein to BMW’s engineers in their active quest to integrate future tech¬nologies within this flexible system to the advantage and pleasure of the BMW driver. Creating the Z9 convertible, BMW has thus built a car with technical features serving more than ever before to give the driver exactly what he wants at the wheel of his BMW: sheer driving pleasure at its very best.