BMW has never built a production pickup truck, even if it's pulled the occasional April Fools prank with a pickup-bodied M3. But students from its U.S. design department and Clemson University in South Carolina have gotten close with their latest concept, BMW Deep Orange 4.
Based on a BMW X3 crossover, Deep Orange 4 is transformed with an X4-style coupe roofline and once viewed from above or behind, a small pickup bed. It still seats four or five people, but aft of the rear seats is an open deck. Under normal driving conditions the deck is covered by a window and what appears to be a relatively normal tailgate, but press a button and the window retracts electrically into the roof, and the rear panel splits and opens in two sections.
You can then stow objects as you might with a regular pickup--albeit in a rather smaller space. Once loaded, the rear doors close again--albeit with the slightly uncomfortable motion of an incomplete prototype. The model is intended to target a niche market of customers who want to match normal BMW traits like performance and comfort with the greater flexibility of an open load space.
Rich Morris, BMW Manufacturing’s vice president of assembly, says the project was designed to find ways of introducing low-volume niche models "without incurring capital-intensive retooling costs and efficiency losses." As the name suggests, it isn't the first time Clemson University has worked on a Deep Orange project. Its last vehicle, Deep Orange 3, was a blank-sheet take on a Mazda passenger vehicle aimed at 'Generation Y'. It featured a through-the-road parallel hybrid powertrain and styling influenced by Mazda's current KODO design language.