BMW provides a glimpse at the next electric car with its Vision iNext concept car. The distinctive new crossover is set to become the third BMW i model when it goes on sale in 2021, following on from the petrol-electric i8 and the battery-powered i3, both introduced in 2013, in a role BMW says will position it as a “new technology flagship” for the German brand.
Boasting the size and proportions of a modern BMW SAV, the BMW Vision iNEXT cuts an authoritative figure. The vehicle instantly conveys its trailblazing character through clearly sculpted forms and surfaces. Striking paintwork and sophisticated details strengthen this impression further. The Liquid Greyrose Copper exterior gradually changes in shade from warm copper to dark rose and injects the vehicle with dynamic flair even when stationary.
The large, interlinked double-kidney grille, the iconic side window graphic, and the blue accent surfaces at the front, sides, and rear have clearly adopted the BMW i styling that already featured on the BMW i Vision Dynamics presented in 2017. Unlocking the vehicle causes the blue accents to light up, accentuating its eye-catching lines. Glass surfaces such as the large windows and the lights are integrated seamlessly into the design and have the appearance of elaborate inlays.
In the center of the front end stands a large, upright kidney grille. As with all electrically powered vehicles, the grille is blanked off. With no combustion engine to require cooling, the kidney element now serves as an “intelligence panel” housing various sensors. A 3D-printed pattern points to the technology below the surface. Super-slim headlights are part of a modern interpretation of BMW’s signature four-eyed front end. The windscreen extends smoothly into a large panoramic roof, lending the rump of the car a visual lightness and ensuring the innovative interior is clearly visible from the outside.
The BMW Vision iNEXT displays the powerful, robust stance of a modern BMW SAV when viewed from the side. The vehicle’s functional two-box proportions and long roofline hint at the ample space inside. The long wheelbase and short overhangs, meanwhile, give the silhouette a dynamic edge. Powerfully sculpted surfaces curve along the flanks like well-defined muscles.
Cameras assume the job of the exterior mirrors, while touch-sensitive illuminated graphics take the place of conventional door openers, underlining the modern, enclosed appearance. There are two large opposing doors with no B-pillar separating them. When opened, they provide an unobstructed view of the spacious interior, while the frame reveals carbon-fiber surfaces. Black cladding brings the bottom edge of the flanks to an SAV-style conclusion and incorporates a blue accent strip as a marker of the vehicle’s electric drive system.
BMW Vision iNEXT drivers can choose to either drive themselves (in “Boost” mode) or be driven (“Ease” mode). “Boost” mode uses the electric drive system to deliver a highly dynamic and virtually silent driving experience with zero emissions. In “Ease” mode, the vehicle offers the driver and passengers a space in which to engage in a wide range of activities.
The large panoramic roof floods the interior with light, creating a cheerful, welcoming atmosphere. Two individual seats in the front plus a one-piece bench in the rear mean there is room for up to four people. There are just a few, clean-cut lines defining the interior – a geometry that truly brings the materials and colours to the fore. The nude shade Purus Rosé, Brown and Beige are mainly used for the cockpit’s colour scheme, with accents in the shimmering metallic Mystic Bronze.
The rear compartment is dominated by the chiefly petrol-coloured Enlighted Cloudburst cloth upholstery with its intricate Jacquard weave, which runs asymmetrically across the seat area and extends into the side panelling and parcel shelf. The result is a visual separation between the cockpit and the rear that produces the effect of different furnishings in an apartment.
The center console between the front seats has all the makings of a high-quality piece of furniture, thanks to both its design and materials. A matt, open-pore wood finish gives it the appearance of a floating coffee table that continues right through to the rear. Under the fine wooden panel is a shell made from exquisite, illuminated crystal glass sitting atop a delicate, bronze-coloured base. The crystal’s faceting refracts the incoming light, splits it up into a multitude of colours and bathes the interior in light reflections.
At first glance, the rear compartment has the appearance of a modern, high-end living space. A generously sized, continuous seat area gives the rear a laid-back lounge character and invites its occupants to stay a while. The handwoven Enlighted Cloudburst Jacquard cloth extends across the entire seat area and into the side panelling, gradually changing from Petrol to White in the process, but still lends the cabin a very modern touch.
Apart from the steering wheel and displays in the driver’s area, there are no other screens or controls to be seen in the BMW Vision iNEXT. In order to preserve the homely character of the rear compartment, and therefore keep the people on board at centre stage, the intelligent technology is integrated out of sight. Only when it is required by the driver or passengers does the technology becomes visible and operable. For example, in future it may be possible to operate various functions via surfaces made out of wood or cloth. Displays would no longer be essential, as intelligent projection could turn any surface into an interactive display.
Of course, there’s a voice assistant on board. Vision iNext’s Intelligent Personal Assistant responds when you say, “Hey BMW,” and can perform a number of functions in-car or remotely, such as to control features of your smart home. A car based on the Vision iNext should arrive in 2021, after the battery-electric Mini in 2019 and the BMW iX3 crossover in 2020. BMW will use a modular electric powertrain architecture across its line of electric vehicles. This means batteries of different shapes and sizes, and one, two or three electric motors powering front-, rear- or all-wheel-drive configurations.