German power, performance war to rage on, says BMW

An unwritten rule is ensuring that German performance cars will continue to shock and awe with their performance numbers

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THINK the BMW M5 Competition’s 460kW twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 is about as far as the German car maker can push the road-going performance boundaries? Nope, it can dial it up even further, the car maker has revealed.

And it is all down to a “gentlemen’s agreement” between German performance brands, BMW says.

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Andreas Klugescheid, BMW’s global vice-president of government affairs, said authorities had not intervened in Germany’s push to develop increasingly more powerful and performance-honed cars only because the brands producing them adhere to an unspoken rule that the cars are capped at a top speed of 250km/h.

If they didn’t do this, Klugescheid said, the regulatory framework that German car makers would need to adhere to could be quite different – by that, he means more restrictive.

“We have a gentlemen’s agreement that we don’t make the cars go faster than 250km/h, although you can get that taken off,” Klugescheid said. “I have a 550i, and when I’m doing 250km/h and I look down it’s only doing 2000rpm. It can go a lot faster than that.

“You also get cars like the Bugatti [Chiron] sold in Germany that has a lot more power and speed, and that’s okay.”

When asked if the voluntary speed cap was one of the main reasons the German government had not intervened to introduce performance benchmarks, Klugescheid simply replied: “Yes.”

BMW has brought a number of its German executives to Australia to meet with the Federal Government in Canberra today to talk about the possibility of providing incentives, such as transit lanes or free parking, for plug-in hybrid car owners.

It comes as the car maker introduces the i8 Roadster, a drop-top version of the petrol-electric plug-in hybrid i8 coupe, to Australia.

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The i8 coupe has accumulated about 120 Australian owners since it went on sale here in 2014, and the drop-top version also flags a midlife makeover for the fixed-roof i8 – along with a price rise.

The i8 coupe jumps to $318,900, a rise of $15,600, but improvements include upping the i8’s twin electric motor/1.5-litre three-cylinder drivetrain’s combined output to 275kW, up from 266kW, while torque remains at 570Nm. The front axle-mounted electric motor keeps its two-speed gearbox, while the hybridised engine sends its drive to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic.

Packing more energy density into the i8’s batteries has extended the i8’s official all-electric range to an estimated 55km. The top speed is electronically governed to 250km/h.

The retracting cloth roof on the $348,900 i8 Roadster, which stows in a vertical space behind the seats, will drop or cover the cabin in 15 seconds, and operates at speeds up to 50km/h. The folding roof also attracts BMW’s Travel Package that provides more storage around the cabin, and electric-adjust front seats.

A special feature on the i8 Roadster is a puddle lamp fixed to the scissor-lift door that projects the i8 logo on the ground.

Only 12 of the roadsters will make their way to Australia this year, with production for other markets taking priority ahead of ours.

Since its 2014 launch, the coupe has attracted about 120 buyers who mostly use the plug-in hybrid as a daily driver.

 

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Barry Park
Journalist

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