iNext: BMW’s electric new model push…
25 electrified vehicles by 2025, 12 of them fully electric, with the irst wave of newcomers led by this battery-powered 4-series. Still worried about electric cars? Don’t be.
The hottest version could even carry an M performance division badge
THE FUTURE of electric mobility has arrived. That’s what BMW boss Harald Krüger said at the Frankfurt motor show, revealing Munich’s latest concept. And if the production version looks anything like this concept when it arrives in three years, we’re inclined to believe him. Because this isn’t an electric car that’s worthy or dull – it’s an electric car that’s designed to be easy to own and a blast to drive. And it’s going to form part of a fast-growing family of electric BMWs. There will be a four-strong hybrid or battery line-up by 2021 with as many as 25 by 2025.
The sleek, low-slung i Vision Dynamics concept you see here is a four-door Gran Coupe-style family car that previews the third i model, ready to join the i3 and i8. BMW says it’s capable of 0-62mph in four seconds, a top speed of 120mph and a range of up to 373 miles.
If BMW is to maintain its current naming strategy, it makes sense that the production model would be called i4, like the combustion-engined 4-series Gran Coupe BMW is linking it to.
Adrian van Hooydonk, the group design chief, is confident that most of the lines and creases will carry across from concept to production car. ‘In design terms, the concept is based on the Vision Next 100 that we showed last year,’ he says. ‘We still have a few things to do, but I’m pretty optimistic that we can make what’s on the show stand a reality.’
The production-spec i4 saloon will use two electric motors, all-wheel drive and torque vectoring. There’s also potential for rear-wheel steering and semi-active air suspension. It’s likely that BMW will follow Tesla’s lead in offering different versions with a choice of power outputs.
In fact, the hotter version could even carry an M performance division badge. ‘The i Vision Dynamics is a car with a broad remit, so I think that will be the time when we see certain blends of BMW i and M’, says Dick Arnold, head of product management at BMW i. ‘Now we have M with a clear picture and we have BMW i with its electrification. Over the years there will certainly be an overlap – no doubt about it.’
Robert Irlinger, head of the BMW i division adds: ‘There will be M cars with kinds of electrification in the future. Is there a clash between the i and M brands? Of course not. There will be a4
blend, or some co-operation in future, because electrification brings benefits – full torque from the beginning, for example.’
When can we expect the i4? Arnold points to the i3 and i8 for a rough idea: the EfficientDynamics Vision concept from 2011 ended up being the i8 in less than three years. On that basis, a customer-ready i Vision Dynamics could be in showrooms as early as 2020.
The i Vision Dynamics is far from the only electric BMW in the pipeline. As part of the group’s plan to provide 25 electrified cars by 2025, with 12 being fully electric, BMW i has a lot on its plate over the next eight years. ‘It’s sometimes smart not to talk too much about your future plans’, says Arnold, but we have a pretty good idea. An electric Mini hatch is already set to be built in Oxford for 2019. An electric X3 SUV will follow a year later.
Van Hooydonk also confirmed that the fourth i car, the so far unseen iNext, ‘will also sit between i3 and i8’. The iNext will mark another step forward for BMW i and will be central to the brand’s autonomous driving push in the next few years. iNext will seamlessly demonstrate autonomy aimed between Levels 3 and 5, which is anything from the car assuming control of safety-critical driving situations right up to the driver being completely unnecessary.
The iNext is seen as a base for which to spread this autonomous tech far and wide within the BMW family. ‘When you have a car like the iNext where it has been developed up to Level 5, from then on the mother company can use tech from the pigeonhole of BMW i. It’s like the use of carbonfibre in the i3 – we now currently use it on the 7-series, too,’ says Irlinger. We’ll see that come to life in 2021.
Our insiders report that the iNext is a dead ringer for Jaguar’s i-Pace crossover. The crossover shape makes commercial sense, too; rival VW Group brands are proving they’re in vogue, with Volkswagen, Skoda and Audi all promising production versions of battery electric SUV concepts from as early as 2018.
As much as BMW is trumpeting its i brand as a pioneer in e-mobility, it’s in some ways playing catch-up. Development chief Klaus Frölich shouted ‘We’re going for the lead!’ as the covers were pulled off the i Vision Dynamics at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show – it seems even he knows the brand has fallen behind the competition. The fightback begins right here. For the M Division perspective on BMW’s electri ied future, see page 30
A production version of the i Vision Dynamics concept could be on sale in 2020
Design icon reborn Trademark kidney grille takes on new, taller form. No vent here – instead the blue outline surrounds an ‘intelligent surface’ that hosts sensors for autonomous functions. What’s under the skin? BMW claims a 4sec 0 62mph time, 120mph top speed and range of 370 miles. Versatile underpinnings already used on 5-series and 7-series can take BEV, PHEV or old-school ICE powertrains.