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Wild BMW Out In Open
Jeepers! This weird and wonderful creation has emerged from the studios of none other than BMW. The normally restrained manufacturer has shown a wild streak by unleashing this open-top 4x4, as well as an advanced-technology test bed model.
Grabbing all the attention is the 'off-roadster', a cross between an X5 and Jeep beach buggy. Proving that now and again BMW's top brass let their designers off the leash, the Z18 has been holed up in total secrecy. But to mark 15 years of tuning arm BMW Technik GmbH, the firm has chosen to bring it out into the public eye for the first time.

The decision to do so is seen as a significant move by industry observers, as it points to the opening of a whole new niche segment in the future. The Z18 won't appear on our roads in this state, but a version loosely following its character will be built around the forthcoming X3, which will be a compact SUV to tackle the Land Rover Freelander.

The Z18 is a fully running prototype based on the 4.4-litre V8, four-wheel-drive X5. It features no roof and a fully weatherproof interior with holes in the floor for drainage. However, BMW's consumer research has aimed the car downmarket, and a version built around a 3-Series-scale platform, with four-wheel drive, four and six-cylinder engines plus a retractable roof, is likely to hit the road within three years if it gets the green light from bosses.

BMW isn't alone in dipping a tentative toe into the new 'off- roadster' market. Both Volvo and Honda are working on similar projects. The race is on to build the world's first truly multi-purpose vehicle.

For its next 7-Series BMW has developed a steering system that cuts braking distances by up to 10 per cent and reduces turning circles. Shown on this Z22 test bed vehicle, Active Front Steering is controlled by a square steering wheel and monitors column lock to apply the right amount of steering to the wheels.

Check out the pics at

Brian R
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