BMW was set to preview a range-topping 9-series sedan at the Beijing auto show last weekend in the guise of its Vision Future Luxury concept car.
The concept is nearly a foot longer than the extended-wheelbase version of the current 7 series. The 9 series, expected in 2016, will compete with the Mercedes-Benz S600 Maybach due late this year.
BMW did not release technical specifications for the concept in advance of the Beijing debut, but brand design director Karim Habib told Automotive News Europe that it is about 216.5 inches long, compared with 205 inches for the long-wheelbase 7 series.
Group design director Adrian van Hooydonk said the Vision Future Luxury hints at future direction but is not a production-ready model.
Among the concept's most striking features are carbon fiber bars that serve as B-pillars, connecting the front and rear windows when the doors close. But below the beltline, the B-pillars morph into a carbon fiber seat frame that is integrated into the load-bearing structure.
The B-pillars are barely noticeable when the doors are open, but provide adequate body rigidity and side impact protection without adding much weight, BMW says.
The B-pillar design probably won't make it into the production model, but is a technical solution for reducing weight that the company says it is considering for future applications.
Inside, BMW said it applied a design principle it calls "subtractive modeling," which involves fusing together thin layers of carbon fabric, aluminum and wood and leather to make lightweight interior parts.
Instead of a central information display for driver and front passenger, the concept has separate displays for driver and passenger. Information can be exchanged between driver and front passenger via a touch-sensitive panel.
Applications such as booking show tickets online via the BMW ConnectedDrive Luxury Concierge service can be shown on the passenger display, without distracting the driver.
Two rear-seat displays are housed in carbon fiber shells. There is also a detachable rear seat touch command tablet.