The best driver's car ever? This is the BMW Z5, the car which insiders say will be the finest driving machine ever built by BMW - which arguably means THE best.
Set to replace the power-packed M Coupe, the new BMW super sports car, combines features from the soon-to-be released Z3 and the X-Coupe concept car.
Although the front lights are distinctively individual when compared to those of the current BMW range, the rear lamps are expected to be largely identical to those that were first shown on the X Coupé.
And the new coupe is aiming high, with the Porsche 911 its target, as well as about-to-be-launched supercars from Japan, including the Mazda RX-8, the Honda NSX, and the Nissan GT-R.
Performance from the new lightweight 2 plus 2 BMW is expected to be impressive.
This is not a "big cubes" car, with only 2.2 litres capacity, but it produces 180 kW and will be almost as quick as the giant-killing M3, with 0-100 km/h in under 5.6 seconds and top speed electronically limited to 250 km/h.
This will make it extremely lithe and maneuverable, while an advanced version of the M3's SMG sequential gearbox will make it ultra-exciting to drive fast, cool as a cucumber in traffic.
And pricing is expected to be ultra-competitive, in the same league as the current BMW 330 CSi - around R300 000 at current prices.
Codenamed Z5, the newcomer is no overnight sensation at BMW, says Auto Express. Board support was first sought for the project in 1999, when managers were weighed down by problems at Rover.
At that time, two other ideas were also being presented to bosses, including a V8 coupé aimed at Jaguar's XKR, and a ?200 000 spaceframe V10 replacement for the M1.
Codenamed Z29, the V8 was deemed too close to the Z8 and forthcoming 6-Series, while the V10 machine, known as M2, was too expensive.
As a result, the Z5 is the only project to have made it to prototype stage. It is based on a similar platform to the one on the forthcoming Z3. Made largely of aluminium, and featuring kevlar boot, bonnet and door panels, the car is expected to weigh little more than 1 000kg. Wheel builder BBS is expected to help produce a set of lightweight alloys, further improving the suspension's efficiency.
Although front engined, the model's proportions show that engineers are pursuing a design which will see the motor mounted as far back as possible in the chassis to help improve weight distribution and handling.
Obviously the coupé will offer BMW's advanced DSC traction-control system as well as ABS. However, as with the current crop of models, this can be switched off by keen drivers.
BMW is also expected to make much of its F1 experience to help sell the new car at its launch late in 2003. It is even possible that the engines will be badged to celebrate the firm's long association with race machine builder Williams.
As the model is developed, BMW is also rumoured to be in the process of developing an all-new V8 edition of the coupé, although this model could be as far away as 2008. If this car goes ahead, it is likely to use the all-new M3 engine destined to appear in the next-generation 3-Series in 2006.