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.

CAR (UK) - - Contents - By Jake Groves and Ge­org Kacher

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...

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