BMW Vision Future Luxury (© BMW AG)Click to enlarge picture

BMW is showing off the new Vision Future Luxury Concept at the 2014 Beijing Motor Show.

BMW is pulling the wraps off a sleek new coupe-like sedan that could fill one of the few apparent gaps in its rapidly expanding lineup. The prototype on display at the 2014 Beijing Motor Show is considered quite likely to become the maker's new 8- or 9-Series flagship.

Precisely how close a production model might come to the show car remains to be seen, however. The concept, dubbed the BMW Vision Future Luxury, features some details that are often used to enhance the sex appeal of show cars -- such as the rear-hinged, "suicide doors" -- that are seldom actually carried over into production models.

Nonetheless, BMW has long been hinting at its desire to fill a niche left open when it dropped the older 8-Series line a few years back.

The Bavarian maker has publicly outlined an aggressive proliferation plan likely to see more than a dozen all-new and significantly redesigned models reach showrooms before the end of the decade. But it's far from alone. During a preview at the New York Auto Show last week, Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Steve Cannon announced his company will launch 30 new models this decade, about one every quarter.

That includes a number of high-line models, such as the S63 AMG 4Matic Coupe that debuted in New York, as well as an S600 Pullman that will fill the gap left open when parent Daimler AG pulled the plug on the Maybach brand. With the two makers locked in a global battle for luxury market dominance, BMW is considered highly likely to try to challenge the new Mercedes offerings.

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The BMW Vision concept is a large but low-slung coupelike sedan that follows last year's unveiling of a somewhat similar concept developed in partnership with the Italian design house Pininfarina and named the Gran Lusso.

The newest show car features classic BMW styling cues, the front "twin-kidney" grille folding back into the low-slung hood, and framed by slit-like headlights.

Inside, the concept is a showcase for advanced technologies, including separate touchscreen displays for both driver and front-seat passenger, as well as for each of the two rear seats. The back tablets would be removable and offer a concierge service as well as other infotainment features.

The driver also gets a "contact analogue" head-up display that covers a projects a wide range of vehicle data. It covers a much larger area of the windshield than traditional HUD systems which could allow it, for example, to highlight obstacles, such as a pedestrian walking into the vehicle's path.

"Buildings, traffic signs or hazards can be highlighted directly in the real-world environment, selectively directing the driver's attention to specific information which is particularly important at any given time," noted a statement from BMW.

Facing pressure to increase mileage and reduce emissions, luxury makers have been looking for ways to slash the weight of their vehicles. And the BMW Vision Concept shows one possible approach. It uses an underlying layer of carbon fiber fabric that is then topped with woods, leathers and, where needed for added strength, aluminum for "additional strength," says the projects designer.

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"Innovative technology and modern luxury have always been an important part of BMW's brand DNA," says Adrian van Hooydonk, the company's design chief.

While he didn't confirm plans for the show car, he did make it clear the BMW Vision Future Luxury design will have a strong influence on the company's top-line products.

It could, of course, serve as the influence for the next-generation 7-Series, BMW's current flagship. But it might also take a step above. The question, then, would be whether the maker would call it an 8- or 9-Series.

Under the latest revision to its nomenclature strategy, BMW sedans are given odd numbers, such as 1, 3, 5 and 7. Coupes and convertibles get even numbers -- such as the M4 performance model introduced in New York last week. But there's an asterisk to the approach. Coupelike 4- and even 5-door models may wind up with even designations, as is the case with the new 4-Series Gran Coupe and X4 Sport-Activity Coupe also debuting in New York.