BMW's Next-Gen Hypercar Imagined as an M12 Spiritual Successor
It's hard to imagine what BMW would have to do today to cause the same stir as the Italdesign Nazca M12 did back in 1991 when it was first uncovered at the Geneva Motor Show. Actually, it's not that hard at all: releasing a beautiful car for a change should do the trick. The Bavarians seem to be on a stylistic journey that could end up taking them to all sorts of places, from discovering an entirely new aesthetic genre to even bankruptcy. If you're not a BMW fan or invested in the German automaker in any other way, it's kind of exciting stuff to watch.
These days, whenever the company prepares to launch a new model or concept, it's like Tom Hanks used to say: you never know what you're going to get. It could be a(nother) dud, or it might be the crowning of BMW's new styling direction that sweeps us off our feet and shows us how wrong we've been all along to criticize the iX or the Concept XM. If I were a betting man, though, I wouldn't put too much money on the latter, but you can call me a pessimist.
There used to be a time when BMW was so confident in its designs that it allowed 26-year-olds to come up with a completely new vehicle, though that particular youngster did happen to carry his father's very famous name: Giugiaro. We're obviously talking about the Italdesign Nazca M12, the BMW-backed 1991 super sports car designed by Fabrizio Giugiaro that joins a very select club of odd vehicles that stand out like a sore thumb (albeit a beautiful one) among the rest of their manufacturer's lineup. If you're thinking Mercedes-BenzC111, you're on the right track. Unlike the C111, though, the M12 had less to do with BMW and a lot more with Giugiaro's design outlet, Italdesign. Since Giorgetto liked to have his prototypes completely functional, he needed to borrow the technical expertise of an actual carmaker; the latter, on the other hand, wanted some of its brand identity infused into the said prototype. In the end, everyone got what they wanted: media exposure and a positive reaction from the public.
Nowadays, you very rarely hear about big manufacturers outsourcing the design process for their new models, concepts or otherwise. With plenty of in-house designers getting a fat paycheck every month, it would make very little sense. Besides, the era of boutique design firms seems to be in the past, so there are no real benefits to be had.
One area that's experiencing a boom is that of independent designers coming up with very carefully worked digital concepts that, more often than not, make the actual cars on sale seem exceedingly conventional and unimaginative. Well, to be fair, the risks of not getting that many likes and losing billions of dollars don't exactly live on the same floor, so it's not like we don't understand why we have this situation.
This BMW M12 Concept belongs to Anthony Zhao, a young and upcoming designer from China, and seems to follow the tried-and-tested recipe for a modern, sleek-looking hypercar: emphasis on aerodynamics (like the original M12, we might add, which had a drag coefficient of just 0.26, almost unheard of at the time), foil-covered side windows for that metallic look, and a distinctive lighting signature.
Obviously, unlike the 1991 concept that used a five-liter V12 engine, this M12 will have to use a type of propulsion that's more in line with its time. We all know by now that's just a fancy way of saying it's a battery-powered sports car – the kind that could potentially erase the fading memory of the hybrid i8 for good.
Even if Zhao's design is nothing revolutionary, there is one part of his presentation that has won us over. You'd think that, by switching to electric propulsion, BMW is presented with the perfect opportunity to reduce the size of the kidney grille. After all, BEVs don't require the same amount of air for cooling or to be shoved into their non-existent engines. Well, the current trend suggests you'd be wrong, but Zhao thinks there is still hope for things to change. We're with you, Zhao, and we'll stand by your side until the end – yours, ours, or indeed, BMW's.