Sports cars have never been the true forte of BMW. The 507, 503, M1, Z1 and Z8 were unloved loss-markers which only attained cult status (long) after production had ended.
But the company is readying a new Z2 to launch it back in to the affordable sports car heartland. Because the Z4 coupe-convertible moved upmarket, it's left a gap for a simpler, purer Z3 successor. Here is CAR's scoop dossier on the new Z2, brought to life with our latest artist's renderings.
The BMW Z2: back-to-basics, but not necessarily front-wheel drive
BMW chairman Norbert Reithofer is reportedly not exactly a fan of the Z2, but the Munich grapevine suggests the board now understands that the brand must not surrender this segment to the competition such as the Mazda MX-5.
The Z2 will definitely be a soft-top roadster. Better still, it will almost certainly not be front-wheel drive. But now Munich R&D types are working out whether a classic RWD matrix would work best, or whether to gamble a new 4wd platform.
BMW Z2: a four-wheel drive sports car?
There was an outcry within the community when first details of the front-wheel drive UKL1 platform for future BMWs and Minis emerged, and this protest was obviously loud enough to convince the BMW officials that 4wd is a must if UKL1 does indeed underpin the Z2.
Among the undisputed advantages of the UKL1 architecture are the early availability (spring 2014 for the roadster, autumn 2014 for the coupé), the traction bonus inherent in four-wheel drive and the economies of scale offered by this high-volume matrix. On the debit side, it's hard to ignore the usual weight, space and cost penalties of all-wheel drive.
The 2-series derived, rear-drive Z2 option
Plan B suggests a launch in 2015, or even 2016. That's a long wait, but it could be worth the delay, since it may include RWD.
Plan B revolves around a modified rear-wheel drive matrix BMW is preparing for the follow-up to the 1-series coupé and cabriolet. Better still, this is not just a stop-gap measure but part of a new split and staggered game plan which ensures that both two-door 1-series cars remain RWD even beyond 2020.
As reported earlier this week by CAR Online, in future these models will be badged 2-series - so the Z2 fits the new nomenclature to perfection.
The Z2 would feature three different 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol fours rated at 170 to 272bhp (ie badged 18i/20i/28i in BMW-speak).
Also on the radar is a 2.0-litre turbodiesel, be it the 184bhp or the 204bhp version.
BMW Z2: a roadster and a coupe
CAR understands that a BMW Z2 coupe would follow the open-top roadster.
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