BMW X4 reclaims dash of utility with Clemson student project [w/videos]

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BMW seems willing to exploit every automotive niche it can find with creations like the four-door, 'crossover coupe' X4 and X6. Of course, these designs come with a compromise. That svelte fastback means that they just can't haul as much cargo as a more traditional, boxier hatchback. Fortunately, students at Clemson University's International Center for Automotive Research might have a novel solution: the engineering graduate program has turned the crossover into a unique pickup.

Dubbed Deep Orange 4 concept, this functional prototype has an enclosed cargo area with a sliding glass panel that opens up to expose a pickup bed if more room is needed. Think of it as the GMC Envoy XUV of German crossovers. This isn't just an X4 with its roof hacked off, though. The students actually started with an X3 and grafted on this top later in addition to the two barn doors for access to the bed.

To make this project even more impressive, this pickup-crossover could conceivably be produced. The graduate students conducted an in-plant analysis of BMW's manufacturing abilities and went back to the university to create a plan for a low-volume vehicle that could actually be built. "The students working on this phase of the project did an excellent job of keeping costs down while finding optimal integration opportunities," said Rich Morris, vice president of assembly at BMW Manufacturing, in the university's release.

Deep Orange 4 is now on display at the CAR Group Management Briefing Seminar in Michigan. Scroll down to read the university's release and watch two videos about the concept; one shows the final product and the other a time-lapse of the build going from X3 to X4-looking pickup.

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CU-ICAR students unveil Deep Orange 4 concept vehicle in Michigan

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - The Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) is showing off its capabilities and automotive engineering students' latest concept vehicle at an industry meeting.

The fourth generation of the concept vehicle program, called Deep Orange 4, is a BMW Manufacturing Co.-sponsored vehicle and will be shown Monday for the first time to the public in its finished form at the CAR Group Management Briefing Seminar. The project has both a manufacturing as well as product focus.

The vehicle is based on the BMW X3 and is defined as a versatile vehicle that targets the niche market of performance-oriented SUV customers who want both best-in-class utility and space and an aggressive sporty design.

For the Deep Orange 4 vehicle, a cost-efficient manufacturing plan was developed which details how a theoretical low-volume model could be assembled without negatively impacting existing BMW production processes.

"The ability to integrate more low-volume models without incurring capital- intensive retooling costs and efficiency losses will be key to success in the future as we strive to respond to changes in market needs faster and with more flexibility," said Rich Morris, vice president of assembly, BMW Manufacturing. "The students working on this phase of the project did an excellent job of keeping costs down while finding optimal integration opportunities."

After successful completion of an in-plant analysis of all manufacturing technology areas, the students moved on to product design, which transformed the trunk compartment to an open-bed configuration with the utility of a pickup truck.

Suzanne Dickerson, director of international business development at CU-ICAR, said this was the first Deep Orange concept vehicle to focus on both unique approaches to manufacturing as well as transformative design.

"This project has a bit of dual personality," Dickerson said. "It's really the best of both worlds for our students to not only consider consumer lifestyles in the conceptual design process but to also look at the very practical elements involved in manufacturing it in the most capital-efficient way."

Students in Clemson's graduate automotive engineering program are required to create and manufacture a new vehicle prototype. The program provides students with experience in vehicle design, development, prototyping and production planning. Each year, a prototype vehicle is developed with a new market focus and technical objectives and is sponsored by a major manufacturer and a number of suppliers, including Dow Automotive, Sage Automotive and others.


Clemson University's International Center for Automotive Research is a 250-acre advanced-technology research campus where university, industry and government organizations collaborate. Clemson's College of Engineering and Science offers master's and Ph.D. programs in automotive engineering at CU-ICAR and is conducting leading-edge applied research in critical areas, such as advanced product-development strategies, sustainable mobility, intelligent manufacturing systems and advanced materials. CU-ICAR has industrial-scale laboratories and testing equipment in world-class facilities available for commercial use.

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