BMW is on a roll with its YouTube game recently, recording deep dives into classic and, in some cases, never before or rarely seen prototypes via its BMW Group Classic channel. On Thursday, the German automaker revealed another concept the world had never seen before, called the ICE.
In this case, ICE does not stand for what you think it does. Though this car was powered by an internal combustion engine, the acronym here means Integrated Concept Engineering. It was developed in 2004 and mashes together the drivetrain of an X5 with the interior of a Z4, plus some small rear seats.
The pitch behind the ICE was to make a sporty coupe with some high-riding, all-terrain credibility — something BMW of course eventually put into production with the X6 and X4. But 17 years ago, two-door crossovers with coupe rooflines were still novel. As BMW designer David Carp explains in the video, the ICE was in many ways a development of the 2001 X Coupe concept — a vehicle that ran the auto show circuit, unlike this one.
Where the X Coupe was very imaginative and forward-thinking, the ICE presented a more production-ready take on the initial premise. That may explain why BMW didn’t feel compelled to publicize it. “What you see here is a little bit shorter and lower than an X3,” Carp explains. “A lot sportier.”
The ICE was headed up by BMW’s DesignWorks studio in California, because the prospect of a “Sports Activity Coupe” seemed to dovetail with the team’s geographic basis.
The concept’s niftiest feature pertains to its hatch, which can be situated in a variety of ways to either accommodate cargo — like, say mountain bikes as seen in the 3D model in the clip — or simply to provide a more open-air cabin. I also love the spotlights on the side mirrors, something many “active lifestyle” concepts mess with but few production cars (like the Toyota FJ Cruiser) ever actually bring to market.
Polarizing looks notwithstanding, the ICE is exactly the kind of crossover that would have been unique and exciting at the time, that we are all absolutely tired of today. Still, I can appreciate it on some level, if I slip on my more optimistic early-millennium shoes.
Though to be honest I’m far more interested in the other secretive concept BMW teased in this video that it plans to discuss in a future episode. Adorned with a license plate labeled “ZBF 7er” it reminds us that BMW had been eyeing ungainly long and narrow kidney grilles several decades well before the likes of the new 4 Series.