BMW has frequently come under fire in the last few years for its controversial design choices. Grilles started getting bigger and bolder, and the manufacturer appeared to be breaking with tradition, interrupting its design evolution that yielded few surprises in the last three or four decades. This dramatic change in design philosophy had a polarizing effect on fans of the brand, who either loved or hated BMW’s new cars.

Has BMW Lost Its Way?

When looking at models like the G11 7 Series LCI, the G70 7 Series, the iX, the XM, the U06 2 Series Active Tourer, the G22 4 Series, or the G80 M3 and G82 M4, many said BMW design had lost its way. It seemed that everybody except BMW’s defensive designers was against this trend of growing grilles to gargantuan proportions. This even sparked a series of very popular memes that saw the already huge BMW grilles getting even bigger and enveloping cars’ entire front ends.

Probably the peak exponent of this flamboyant opulence phase in BMW’s design is the XM super SUV, which the manufacturer envisioned as a Lamborghini Urus rival. It is a vehicle squarely aimed at extroverts who don’t mind getting attention everywhere they go, but it’s a far cry from BMWs of old, whose classy, understated design proposed a much quieter and more restrained form of luxury.

BMW Vision Neue Klasse – New Beginnings

This brash approach hasn’t worked as BMW intended it to, though, and it appears that the manufacturer is again going to draw more from its history for the design of future models. Proof of that is the brand’s latest concepts, the Vision Neue Klasse and Vision Neue Klasse X design studies, whose main design cues are nods to BMWs from decades past.

The first of these concepts to be unveiled was the Vision Neue Klasse sedan, which previews BMW’s first dedicated electric sedan. When it was revealed, it came with the tagline “BMW reinvents itself,” and that’s definitely not an understatement. Not only does it look radically different from any previous BMW, but it’s also fully electric, which confirms the brand’s path towards the eventual full electrification of its lineup.

The Vision Neue Klasse sedan has a simple and elegant shape, with clean lines, no superfluous details, and no oversized grille. The daytime running light signature is simple, made up of two slanted LED lines—this is an element we expect to see in all Neue Klasse electric models, as well as the combustion models they inspire.

BMW has also integrated the kidney grilles with the front light clusters. The grilles won’t be open and won’t serve the functional purpose of allowing air through in the future model (since it’s an EV), but they are an integral part of BMW’s visual identity. They could even have an illuminated outline exactly like on the study—BMW wants to replace chrome with light in its future models, and that looks like a great place for it.

It doesn’t even have a coupe-like roofline, which has been a design staple for many sedans created in the last decade, all of which drew inspiration from the Mercedes-Benz CLS. Viewed from any angle, the Neue Klasse sedan looks low and planted, with a great stance. Its wide rear light clusters accentuate this visual width and give the vehicle a lot of presence.

Vision X – The Future Language of X BMWs

The most recent design study from BMW is the Vision Neue Klasse X, which previews the first Neue Klasse model that will debut first, a crossover. It has a lot of the sedan’s design DNA, but it has wider and bolder flanks, a more aggressive-looking front end, and a completely different kidney grille design. Unlike the sedan, whose grille is integrated into the same design element as each of its front light clusters, in the crossover, the grille is vertical and much more prominent. It too will be completely closed off and will only serve the purpose of retaining the brand’s identity and making it very visible.

Even though the Vision Neue Klasse X’s faux grille isn’t especially big, it is tall and slightly angled forward, giving the vehicle a very strong “shark nose” appearance. This harkens back to BMWs of old, including the original Neue Klasse of the 1960s, and it’s a very successful reinterpretation of such an iconic design element—it’s not overdone, but it’s also not subdued either.

A Futuristic Interior

When it comes to the interiors, BMW seems to be going for a distinctly retro vibe, at least when it comes to some of the design elements and the materials used (especially the fabric material showcased on the Neue Klasse X concept). The cabin of Neue Klasse models will be quite futuristic, though, with an almost complete absence of physical buttons.

It will still retain some of the sporty feel of old BMW interiors, whose center console was angled towards the driver. However, BMW has decided to reinterpret that design element by making a screen that’s skewed in the driver’s direction, so one corner of the screen is closed to the driver without actually angling it away from the passenger—it’s a clever design trick that seems to work quite well, at least visually.

Some Neue Klasse Design Cues Will Come To ICE Models

It’s worth noting that while BMW is making a big deal out of launching its Neue Klasse line of models, it will still keep a parallel line of combustion models on sale well into the next decade. These models will either be based on one of the manufacturer’s front-wheel drive platforms or the CLAR rear-wheel drive architecture, but they will be styled to look a lot like their Neue Klasse EV counterparts.

What this means is that BMW purists who prefer combustion engines will be catered for, and the ICE models they will be able to choose between should be very handsome. We’ll have to wait and see how all this plays out exactly, but we say the two Neue Klasse concepts announce a new and very positive chapter of BMW design.

So what do you think? Is the BMW design back?