BMW has embarked on a radical new model programme that includes both a dramatic coupé/off-roader and a versatile crossover vehicle. The two new cars, described by BMW chairman Helmut Panke as ‘totally different to anything BMW has ever offered in the past’, are currently at an early stage of development and should land in UK showrooms in just over three years.
Created to propel BMW into two emerging market segments, the high-riding SAC (Sport Activity Coupé) and multi-faceted SFC (Space Functional Crossover) are proof that BMW is looking beyond its traditional models in order to meet its goal of 1.6 million annual sales by the end of the decade, up from the record 1.21 million sales in 2004.
Spearheading BMW’s new model push – if more in image than production numbers – is the extravagant SAC, a car Panke describes as a mixture of sports car, coupé and off-roader. Inspired by the controversial X-Coupé from 2001’s Detroit Motor Show (see gallery), it combines the high seating position and raised ground clearance of an off-roader with the sleek shape of a coupé. At 4700mm long, the SAC is marginally shorter than the 6-series, but wider and considerably higher.
Although described as a coupé, the new BMW has been designed around a sleek four-door bodyshell, mirroring key rival Mercedes-Benz’s CLS, albeit with a much tougher off-road-oriented look.
Autocar’s computer-generated image shows the design direction BMW is considering, although the final look is far from signed off. The Germans remain undecided on whether to plump for conventional rear doors or a more complicated and costly rear-hinged layout.
The SAC will offer the sumptuous interior expected from a car with a £48,000 starting price and Panke is clear on the layout. ‘It is not a two-plus-two in the traditional sense,’ he said. ‘It is a four-seater with boot space.’