Final production roadster is close to concept shown earlier

Final production roadster is close to concept shown earlier

BMW's annual media get-together is sometimes good for a bit of controversial copy, such as the year the then-managing director took a shot at London's controversial congestion charge which was then reckoned to be costing the automaker's flagship dealership in Park Lane GBP1m a year.

No such controversy this year, as the entire event on Thursday night (15 December) at the East Wintergarden in Canary Wharf, London, was hosted by long-serving communications director Graham Biggs with nary an official word from any other senior suit, and nothing, really, to rattle any cages with today.

Instead, as you might expect from a company with a 3,000-car – plus motorcycles and even 400 bicycles - commitment to the 2012 London Olympics, that was the main topic of conversation, along with a sneak preview of two exciting new niche models from both BMW and Mini. Look, touch, drool but no photos please...

BMW's car line-up for the Olympics is a mix of models and will include 300 electric Minis; the 3,000-unit fleet will transport athletes, officials, VIPs and media. After the event, this choice selection of nearly-new cars with interesting provenance will, Biggs said, be “drip-fed” out to dealers for resale along with the other 90,000-odd used cars BMW dealers retail in the UK each year.

I reckon dealers might be able to make a bit extra on an 'ex-Olympics' car, recalling how popular a special run of Holdens made for the '74 Commonwealth Games in New Zealand was when they filtered down to the GM network.

“Like my new BMW? They used it down in London at the Olympics.” Gotta be a selling point.

Other facts and figures, like how much all this is costing the automaker to expose its product to a global audience, remained unanswered last night but I doubt we have heard, by a long way, all which BMW eventually will wish to tell about this huge sponsorship commitment.

A selection of athletes were in attendance as well, the beach volleyball ladies endearing themselves to me by telling me they were off imminently to the surf beach resort near where I grew up for summer training, along with several other sunny southern hemisphere destinations, also handily escaping the British winter, which the rowers and scullers lamented they could not...

The new product was the Mini roadster, in full John Cooper Works trim (GBP30,000) which looks absolutely gorgeous. Along with the coupe, this, the designers say, offers the driver a completely different experience to hatch, convertible, Clubman and Countryman, due to the flatter windscreen and a different view out, delivering a more intimate feel between driver and car.

The roadster makes its public debut at Detroit next month.

But the one that would have me brandishing a lottery cheque at the nearest BMW shop is the one I only found out about by accident on an Antipodean website this week; the new 6-series Gran Coupe.

Don't we already have a 6-series coupe (and convertible)? Yes, but this is a four-door sedan/coupe along the lines of Mercedes' CLS and VW's Passat CC and it is absolutely stunning, particularly inside. The £70,000 display car, with £23,000 of extras, had beige leather, contrasting black surfaces with cream stitching and piano black trim (plus a killer B&O stereo system with a centre speaker that motors up into place above the dash when you switch the system on) and has the most stylish layout, passenger side crash padding swooping down into the centre console, I have ever seen in a BMW.

The display car had a bench rear seat but the centre console extends right to the bench so it's a four-seater though I guess a fifth could straddle the a/c and audio controls at a pinch.

Doors are frameless and boot space adequate. It goes public at Geneva, sales start soon after.

Another new BMW was also on display and I wasn't the only one to miss it initially – the new 3-series sedan, as revealed in Munich a little while back. The new car is completely restyled inside and out but is so evolutionary it is easy to miss.

Nice, though...

It's something else for BMW to look forward to in 2012, besides the Olympics, a full overhaul of its most popular model.

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