The BMW Turbo was a groundbreaking prototype, a design study and a multi- faceted technology showcase that was introduced to an astonished public in 1972.
BMW launched it as the world’s first safety sports car and the brand’s first ever Vision Car. Its designers used it as a research lab on wheels, anticipating innovations that later turned up in volume-production vehicles. It was with this car that BMW demonstrated how a fascinating sports car could be combined with a substantial safety concept.
The design of the gullwing model is extremely flat, not only making the car look more dynamic but also significantly enhancing both active and passive safety: a balanced axle load distribution, low centre of gravity and good all-round visibility are all features that increase safety. Even the paint finish was a safety factor: with its spectrally graded luminous colouring at the front and rear, the BMW Turbo was clearly visible even on grey winter days.
The underlying premise of BMW Head Designer Paul Bracq was to put the human element at the heart of the development process. Ergonomic interior design was key here, in particular the driver-oriented cockpit that went into mass production for the first time in 1975 in the BMW 3 Series and exerted a defining influence on cockpit
design in BMW models for decades to come. The extensive passive safety package consisted of seat belts which had to be fastened before the car would start, a safety steering column with three universal joints, door jambs that acted as a rollover bar and safety crumple zones with hydraulic dampers at the front and rear.
In specific situations, assistance systems were activated such as the anti-lock braking system (ABS), radar-based braking distance monitor and lateral acceleration sensor. The BMW Turbo also provided its driver with feedback on the state of the vehicle via ‘Check Control’. It was the first time that connectivity was established between the driver, the vehicle and its environment.
The car was powered by a horizontally mounted four-cylinder engine with a capacity of just under two litres. This was taken from the BMW 02 series and was boosted by a turbocharger to produce 280bhp. Weighing in at just 980kg, the BMW Turbo accelerated from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.6 seconds and had a top speed of 155mph. A second prototype was developed in autumn 1973.