When BMW displayed its concept for the BMW Vision NEXT 100, it looks like something plucked straight from the future. With a flexible skin-like body and bonkers interior, the iNEXT might as well have been take from a Philip K. Dick novel. However, the actual car won’t look anything like that when it finally makes its debut in 2021.
According to BMW, the upcoming iNEXT will begin production at the Dingolfing plant in 2021 and will be some sort of electric crossover. While BMW just claims that it will be a “larger vehicle” sources inside BMW claim that it’s similar in size and shape to the Jaguar I-Pace. So it should be a big larger than the current BMW i3 and more of a crossover than a hatchback. Though, this makes sense, as BMW wants to make it a bit more mainstream. Making it a crossover will help create a larger influx of customers while making it easier to package the batteries and motors. Plus, nothing sells better than crossovers.
But BMW isn’t just trying to make another electric crossover to compete with Jaguar and Audi, it wants to develop something special, make a big splash, as it did with the i3. And, as BMW has said before, it’s been focusing more on automation than electrification. So the BMW iNEXT will be bring Level 3 autonomy, allowing near full automated driving without human input. Level 3 allows the car to drive itself under almost all circumstances but requires a human driver as a fallback. According to BMW, Level 3 allows the car to drive and the driver to focus on secondary activities. As it stands now, this would be the most advanced autonomous machine on the market, except it probably won’t be by 2021, as Audi has already claimed the next A8 will be Level 3-capable in 2018, with the only thing holding it back being regulations.
Though, BMW does claim that the iNEXT will be technically capable of Level 4 and even Level 5 autonomy. Level 4 is essentially full-autonomy, meaning the driver could take a nap, read a book or play ping-pong. The car’s got it. Level 5 would allow for there not to be a steering wheel or pedals and the humans inside would be nothing more than passengers. BMW claims the iNEXT will be capable of these advanced automated systems but will likely not be able to use them, thanks to laws and regulations, as well as infrastructure or lack thereof.
BMW also claims that the iNEXT “will also have a new and future-oriented interior and the most modern networking technologies.” Judging from what we’ve seen, we don’t doubt the future-oriented interior claims, as the Vision NEXT 100 Concept had an interior that was truly out of this world. We don’t know what sort of networking technologies will exist in 2021, despite that only being a few years away, but expect it to be crazy.
The BMW iNEXT will also feature the most high-tech lightweight materials and manufacturing techniques, to keep the weight as low as possible. Imagine a lot of carbon fiber in both the chassis and body, so those flexible panels on the Vision NEXT 100 Concept are probably out the window. So while you won’t be able to dream about chasing down replicants in your futuristic looking BMW, the iNEXT will still be pretty impressive.