It’s no secret that BMW has long planned its transition to full electric power, having introduced its future forward range of BMW i vehicles in 2013. Now, it has unveiled the Vision iNEXT concept that shows whats, um, next for the premium carmaker from Munich.
The Vision iNEXT takes the design language introduced on last year’s i Vision Dynamics sedan concept and repurposes it on a high-riding SUV. Front and centre of this look is the controversial (and ginormous) conjoined double kidney grille, the shape of which is repeated in the side window graphic. In place of a traditional air inlet, this grille now sports a 3D-printed panel hiding the car’s various sensors.
Flanking the grille are slim headlights that retain the trademark BMW “four-eyed” graphic, while the windscreen sweeps into the panoramic glass roof to make the interior clearly visible on the outside. The aero wheels measure a massive 24 inches and are emphasised by the muscular flared wheel arches. As with many other SUVs, the Vision iNEXT features a blacked-out D-pillars for a trendy floating roof look.
The whole look is tied together with broad and slender L-shaped tail lights, the rose gold-like Liquid Greyrose Copper paint, typical SUV black cladding and blue accent lights around the grille, side sills and even the rear diffuser. Like the recently-unveiled Audi e-tron, the Vision iNEXT features cameras instead of exterior mirrors, and there are also touch-operated door openers for an even more sci-fi experience.
Step through the wide opening afforded by the suicide doors and lack of B-pillar and you’ll find an airy, minimalist cabin that BMW says is inspired by the world of furniture. There’s a flat horizontal dashboard, an oblong-shaped steering wheel and a centre console that resembles a modern coffee table, with wooden panelling sitting atop a crystal glass shell and a bronze-coloured base.
The interior is draped in Purus Rosé, brown and beige colours with bronze highlights, while the rear area is upholstered in ironically petrol-coloured Enlighted Cloudburst Jacquard handwoven cloth. This fabric fades to white as it wraps around the side panels.
As the Vision iNEXT is designed with both manual and autonomous driving in mind, the cabin features two modes – “Boost” and “Ease”. The former is a straightforward driving position, but in the latter, the steering wheel is retracted and the user interface switches to an exploration mode that provides suggestions of places and events that could be of interest. The front headrests can also be folded back to facilitate more effective communication between those at the front and rear of the car.
Aside from the displays in the centre and in front of the driver, there are no other controls on the inside, as intelligent projection technology allows virtually any surface to become a control display. The idea is for the car’s technology to become visible only when needed – a philosophy that BMW terms “Shy Tech”.
This umbrella term includes three key features: the new voice-activated Intelligent Personal Assistant, intelligent materials that incorporate touch controls in the centre console and rear cabin, and the Intelligent Beam that works both as a reading light and an interactive projector. This last function would allow printed materials to be supplemented by images, moving content and graphics, for example.
The production version of the Vision iNEXT, tentatively dubbed the BMW iNEXT, will go into production in 2021. No technical details have been revealed just yet, but expect the car to feature power and range beyond the 268 hp and 400 km quoted for the forthcoming iX3, as BMW takes aim at the new e-tron and other vehicles in the burgeoning all-electric premium SUV segment.
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