BMW Side Impact Protection

At BMW factory in South Carolina there is a Z3 Safety Shell Exhibit that shows off some of the design and technology BMW is using to make these cars as safe as possible. One of the improvements they are especially proud of is the yellow bar you see running horizontally across the door.

It looks simple enough but this bar is designed to protect the occupant by spreading the impact in front of and behind the driver. At the exhibit we were told that this could easily make the difference between walking away from an accident or not.

Okay forget marketing hype, Mike Dwyer saw this device work in real life. “I had someone run a red light and hit me directly on the drivers door at about 35mph. Only a few minor nicks for me, but the M roadster had the back left wheel tweeked and the total bill was almost $12k”

Looking at this picture you can see that the door was the impact zone. But notice the raised ridge (and picture that yellow bar from the safety shell exhibit).

Used Airbags

I hope you never have to see your Z3 in this condition, but below are some pictures of a Z3 after its airbags had been deployed. I’m not sure whose Z3 this is; it was parked at a BMW dealership.

This first picture shows the passenger side airbag. It is much larger than I expected it to be. The fabric looks like a thick, almost canvas like surface.

The driver’s side airbag was much smaller, but it looked like someone has pushed part of the bag back into the steering wheel. Looking around the cabin, I expected to see some white powder, but the interior was clean.

What surprised me the most was how little damage there was to the front bumper. I expected to see a lot more damage if the impact was enough to set off the airbags. It is my understanding that the Z3 knows if you are wearing your seat belts or not and will deploy the airbags in a lesser impact if you are not wearing your seat belt. I don’t really know any details, just observing how little damage there was to the front bumper.