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BMW, Toyota working on Z1, Z3, Z5 Trio to take power war with next-generation Mercedes SLC

BMW, Toyota working on Z1, Z3, Z5 Trio to take power war with next-generation Mercedes SLC

PARIS: A future range of Z cars to be tasked with hunting down Porsche and Mercedes is reportedly on the drawingboards in Bavaria. According to Spanish site, Motor, there are as many as three new models underway – at least one of which, possibly two, will be joint projects with Toyota.

BMW’s new Z3, a replacement of the current Z4 as previously reported, will reportedly be closely linked to the next generation Toyota 86.

BMW will be responsible for the styling both inside and out, and the 86’s 2.0 litre boxer four will be turfed in favour of a range of BMW powerplants.

The Bavarian automaker’s three- and four-cylinder engines are expected to power entry-level Z3 models, with the latter said to be capable of delivering a Boxster-matching 198kW.

Opt for the straight sixes in higher-end models, and 294kW would be on tap to help take the power war to the Porsche Cayman S and next-generation Mercedes SLC.

Ironically for Toyota 86 fans awaiting for a turbo model to materialise, this could be the first and only time that platform will be paired with a turbo engine from factory – albeit with a BMW badge only.

The new Z3 is expected to retain classic BMW Z-car design features and reference BMW’s 328 Hommage concept car, with a long bonnet, wide track, rear-set cabin and short boot lid expected to feature in the sleek design.

The report also claims a coupe and a convertible will be available, with BMW seeking to keep weight low by opting for a soft-top in lieu of a retractable electric metal roof (a lá the current Z4).

Rumours of a jointly-developed BMW Z5 and Toyota supercar could result in a GT-R rivaling Supra (previewed by the FT-1 Concept, below) for Toyota, and a Porsche 911 Turbo and AMG GT beater for the German brand.

The flagship Z car will reportedly be ready in 2017, which, if accurate, means test spy photos should start appearing soon as BMW would need to turn to the ultimate battle ground for performance bragging rights – the Nurburgring.

There are also claims of similar styling cues to the Z3 on the larger Z5, while sharing a tweaked version of the BMW M3/M4’s 320kW 3.0 litre turbo straight-six engine.

However, a 368kW hybrid version may follow shortly after – possibly as an M version. With some rivals already exceeding 400kW though, BMW engineers would need to keep weight to a minimum to compete.

To help with this task, BMW is said to be looking at a carbon-fibre tub structure similar to the BMW i8 (above). The use of composite materials would be blended with high strength steel and aluminium body panels.

Thermoplastics are also expected to be used. As per its smaller sibling, the Z5 may be only available as a coupe and soft-top convertible.

Inside, all new Z cars are expected to retain the driver-focused layout. A 2+2 seating arrangement may also feature on the larger Z5, but is unlikely for the more compact Z3.

A new version of iDrive is also set to make an appearance, and BMW is said to be working on a range of personalization options inside and out.

Rounding off the new reported BMW Z-car range is the entry level Z1.

Based on the UKL1 architecture that underpins the Mini Cooper, BMW 2 Series Active Tourer and the 1 Series GT hatch, BMW’s first modern front-wheel drive performance car would feature the same three and four-cylinder turbo engines as seen in the new Mini Cooper range.

The new layout would see the Z1 battling with another German rival – the Audi TT (below). However no mention has been made on whether high-end BMW Z1 models would make use of all wheel drive. The UKL1 platform is certainly capable of it, however.

Despite its front-driven underpinnings, the model is said to be a true Z car defined by agile handling, a long bonnet and short rear overhang and a cabin mounted close to the rear axle.

This would make for an interesting juxtaposition of concepts, with front wheel drive cars typically saving space at the expense of athletic proportions. Traditionally, BMW Z cars have celebrated imposing proportions at the expense of practicality.