After having been leaked, the BMW Vision iNEXT Concept has finally been revealed and it represents just one of the building blocks to BMW’s EV future, according to BMW CEO Harald Krüger. “The iNEXT project will provide our building blocks for the future, from which the entire company and all of its brands are set to benefit.”
Since the ’70s, BMW has been known as the Ultimate Driving Machine, the brand that built machines meant for driving. But what it means to drive, and personal mobility as a whole, is changing and quickly. So BMW needs to think ahead and create, well, a vision for the future. In this envisioned future, BMW needs to imagine what mobility will be and what it will require.
BMW iNEXT Exterior Design
“Personal mobility is set to experience significant change,” says Klaus Fröhlich, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, responsible for Development. “The possibilities opened up by autonomous driving and ever-expanding connectivity enable a whole new range of experiences and ways of shaping a journey. With this in mind, we have designed the all-electric BMW Vision iNEXT as a mobile environment that enhances quality of life, a new “Favorite Space” in which we can be ourselves and relax. Indeed, all of BMW’s endeavors will continue to revolve around people – and their needs and desires when it comes to mobility – in the future”.
The entire idea of the BMW Vision iNEXT is to envision what a car that sports highly advanced autonomous driving capability but can also be driven by the driver if desired. So don’t think that BMW is replacing the driver altogether. “The BMW Vision iNEXT represents a new era of sheer driving pleasure,” said Krüger. “It underlines the leading role Germany plays in the future of mobility.”
BMW chose to give the Vision iNEXT Concept a crossover body style, or SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle in BMW speak), so as to give it a bit of a “trailblazer” vibe. Visually, we already know what it looks like, as it’s been teased and leaked quite a bit already. However, these new official photos give us a better look. It’s certainly an interesting design, even if it isn’t the most thrilling.
The headlights are built into the body line that separates the hood from the fenders and the massive “Kidney Grilles” are joined at the middle. The windshield extends upward into the massive glass roof, sort of like the Tesla Model 3.
Inside, that massive windshield/sunroof provides an incredible amount of light. It also gives it a wonderful open, airy feeling. There seems to be a ton of space inside the Vision iNEXT, making even the BMW i3 seem tiny and cramped on the inside.
BMW wanted to create two distinct moods inside the cabin of the Vision iNEXT. So there’s “Boost”, which provides maximum electric power for fun, dynamic driving, and there’s “Ease”, which allows the passengers to relax and let the car drive autonomously. The idea is to create your “Favorite Space” inside the Vision iNEXT, where it can be whichever sort of personal space you want at the moment.
The front and back seats are also distinctly designed, to sort of give the cabin two different spaces as well. Up front, it’s all clean cut lines and relaxing, easy-on-the-eyes designs. In the back, though, it’s a bit different. This is how BMW describes the rear seat design — “petrol-colored 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.” Though, all I see is a rear seat made from acid-washed jeans.
One interesting aspect of the interior is its technology. BMW very much wanted the tech to work in the background and not be too intrusive. So, aside from the massive screens on the dashboard, the interior is pretty devoid of any other controls. BMW calls this design style “Shy Tech” and it breaks that down into three different aspects to make it work: Intelligent Personal Assistant, Intelligent Materials and Intelligent Beam.
The “Intelligent Personal Assistant” we’ve already heard of. It’s essentially a BMW Siri that can be summoned by saying “Hey, BMW”. It can control virtually everything and really comes in handy while in “Ease” mode and the driver relaxing. It’s also integrated with BMW’s Connected Drive systems and all personal devices paired with the car.
As for “Intelligent Materials”, the center armrest’wood panel can replace the traditional iDrive controller. While in “Boost” mode, the center screen is controlled via typical touch controls. However, while in “Ease” mode, the screen can be operated via the wood on the center armrest, which then becomes a touch panel that provides visual recognition of touch responses with little trails of light. The rear seat’s cloth material also has a similar technology. So no, that woman in the photos isn’t hallucinating back there, as I previously thought.
“Intelligent Beam” is basically a way to use light projection to create digital images and displays inside the cabin. It can serve as either a reading light or a way to project something like the test of a book inside the car.
This BMW Vision iNEXT is just a concept car at the moment but it does give us a glimpse of the future. A series-production car will official be made in 2021, heavily based on the themes and designs we see in these Vision Concepts. So while the production car might not have touch-capacitive acid-wash jeans for back seats, it will surely have some of these ideas implemented. The future is going to be weird.