After a few years of experiencing press events hosted by European, Asian, and American manufacturers, it's become clear to me that the Germans have a flair for the flamboyant. At the rather dower 2009 Detroit Auto Show, BMW's showmanship was a welcomed relief.
The world-wide reveal of the 2009 BMW Z4 began with an acrobat doing Olympic stunts on a white curtain that looked to have been stolen from a lobby of some trendy South Beach hotel. Your humble author never quite figured out what the antics had to do with the Z4, but the new hardtop roadster is striking. The previous Z4 lost all the beauty possessed by the Z3. Some of it seems to have returned. An interesting detail is that the top lowers in only 20 seconds.
Preceding the Z4 was the introduction of the Active Hybrid 7-Series. This "concept" car is a mild hybrid utilizing a 20-horsepower electric motor that is integrated into the transmission (likely an eight-speed unit built by ZF). Lithium ion batteries store power provided by regenerative braking. We're not sure why BMW showed this as a concept, because the company promised the release of an Active Hybrid (BMW's name for a mild hybrid) sometime in 2009.
BMW will also introduce their first two-mode hybrid this calendar year. The X5 will carry the powertrain that utilizes components developed jointly with General Motors, Chrysler, and Mercedes-Benz.
Thanks, BMW, for having some fun in Detroit. We needed the distraction, even if we didn't understand it.