Not every concept car BMW designs sees the light of day. Automakers sometimes design concepts to test out new ideas away from the public eye, then keep those cars stashed away. One of those secret concept cars is the BMW ICE, which dates to 2004 when the cicadas last came out, but it only recently made its public debut in an episode of the automaker’s Inside BMW Group Classic YouTube series.
Today, “ICE” usually means “internal-combustion engine,” but in this case it’s an acronym for “Integrated Concept Engineering,” according to BMW designer David Carp, who explains the car’s history in the video.
With its tall ride height and sleek roof line, the ICE foreshadowed today’s SUV coupes. It has the powertrain and platform from a contemporary BMW X5, with a Z4 interior (albeit with small back seats added). The two-door ICE is a bit shorter than a contemporary X3, and features a split-opening rear hatch that can swallow a mountain bike, Carp says.
BMW ICE concept
This wasn’t the first BMW concept car to marry SUV and coupe elements. The automaker unveiled its X-Coupe concept at the 2001 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, about three years before the ICE was completed. But the ICE was an important step between that original concept and the first-generation BMW X6, the automaker’s first production SUV coupe.
The X6, in turn, helped create a new vehicle segment that now includes the smaller X4, plus similar models from Audi, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche. So despite never being shown to the public when new, the ICE has had a big influence on car design.
BMW has kept other concept cars and prototypes secret over the years, including the E31 M8 prototype, which was shown publicly about a decade after it was built. The next video will also feature the BMW ZBF 7er from 1996. We’re still waiting for the E34 M5 wagon prototype powered by a McLaren F1 V-12 to see to the light of day.