BMW HQ: ahead of its time?

BMW has announced it will sell 1.5 million 3- and 4-cylinder engines by 2015.

It’s all part of the premium giant’s intention to become even more green, and continue its EfficientDynamics drive.

It’s also a staggering number: last year, BMW sold 1.5 million cars IN TOTAL. It wants to drive this to 2 million by 2015 – meaning 3 in 4 of them are to be, well, 3 or 4 cylinder units.

Which finally means its famous HQ has come into its own.

See, for years, BMW has been famous for 6-cylinder engines. Its straight-sixes have long been adorable, with icons including most of the 1970s and 80s mainstream stuff, plus the 325i, the 528i, the E46 M3, the E34 M5, and umpteen more besides (what I wouldn’t do for an E36 328i Touring, for instance).

Since the E36 318i started becoming the company car of choice in the 1990s though, 4-cylinders have started to win out.

Good. I love BMW 4-cylinder engines, for their raspy goodness and throbby involvement: since diesels started to become good in the E46 too, they’ve joined the pile for offering thrusting power and amazing economy.

Which takes us to the Munich HQ. Built between 1968 and 1972, just in time for the 1972 Olympic Games, it’s known as BMW-Vierzylinder in German. Yes, ‘BMW four-cylinder’. Although most prefer simply ‘BMW Tower’. The Karl Schwanzer-designed building won historical status in 1999, and is said to be the most iconic piece of architecture in Munich.

UK fame

It first really came to the UK’s attention with the Rover fallout (remember the late-night reports on the news when the crisis was unfolding?). How strange, said car commentators at the time, that a brand famed for its 6 cylinder engines should live within an HQ paying homage to the 4-cylinder engine.

Not anymore. 4 cylinder units already give BMW its profitable volume, and it looks this is set to continue in the future. Indeed, the 4 cylinder look like they’re going to supplant 6-pots, with 3-cylinder units nipping in below the 4-pots. See the new X3 xDrive28i’s 2.0 TwinPower twin-scroll turbo as the first step towards this.

BMW is cutting its cylinder count, improving its economy, not affecting its engine power and, yes, making its famous HQ fully relevant in the modern world.

Architects are clever folks, and have to go to University for 7 years to qualify. But I didn’t know just how clever, until this.

The future of the BMW car predicted by the architect firm that designed its HQ? Well, I’ll be…

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