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Auto blogWed, 24 Sep 2014
BMW's performance division has been run by Dr. Friedrich Nitschke since 2011, developing, among other products, the new M3 and M4. But soon the good doctor will be retiring, and BMW has just named his successor.
Taking Nitschke's place as chairman of BMW M GmbH will be Franciscus van Meel (pictured at right), who until recently served as managing director of Audi Quattro GmbH - the rival outfit that makes Ingolstadt's performance models, including the R8 supercar and RS line of performance models.
Van Meel will join BMW on October 1, presumably to learn the ropes from Nitschke before the 59-year-old executive steps down at the end of the year. Back in January, Audi named Heinz Peter Hollwerweger as head of Quattro GmbH and reassigned van Meel to its Beijing R&D center, a role which evidently didn't suit him as well as creating Autobahn-storming German muscle cars.
We won't argue that crossovers are hugely successful vehicles, with automakers working to provide functional CUVs in a wide range of sizes. But over at BMW, things are just getting out of hand, as evidenced by this new X4 "Sports Activity Coupe" that debuts here at the 2014 New York Auto Show.
BMW is seeing fit to offer vehicles in even the most niche of niches, and the X4 is no exception. Want proof? Have a look at the X4, and the compare it to the X3, the 3 Series Gran Turismo, the 3 Series Sport Wagon, and the 4 Series Gran Coupe. Aside from marginal differences in things like ground clearance and the exact slope of the hatchback, what, exactly, is the difference?
Like the other models we just mentioned, the X4 is powered by either a 2.0-liter turbo-four with 240 horsepower or a more powerful, 3.0-liter turbo-six with 300 horsepower, and unsurprisingly, power is sent to the ground exclusively via the company's xDrive all-wheel-drive system. An eight-speed automatic transmission is the sole gearbox available with either engine. All sounds very familiar, right?
Prior to the debut of the original X5 in 1999, the idea of a BMW crossover might have seemed like heresy. But here we are, fifteen years removed from the Frank Stephenson-penned design, and the Bavarian automaker has expanded its crossover lineup to include the X1, X3, X4 and X6, and it's showing no sign of slowing down.
We recently reported that BMW is planning on slotting an X2 in at the bottom of the range between the X1 and X3, but now it's being widely reported that it's got an even larger one to put in at the top of its utility line. That, of course, would be the X7, a long-rumored three-row model that would give BMW a large family hauler to challenge the Mercedes-Benz GL.
According to The Wall Street Journal, BMW is expanding its assembly plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, to accommodate production of the X7 alongside the X3, X4 and X5 that it already builds there for local consumption.