BMW charges into the fu­ture

IN­TER­NA­TIONAL LAUNCH/ The iNEXT con­cept is like no Beemer you’ve seen be­fore, writes De­nis Droppa

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

The Vi­sion iNEXT cel­e­brat­ing its world pre­miere at the Los An­ge­les Auto Show pro­vides a glimpse into BMW’s near fu­ture. The con­cept SUV is the lat­est Vi­sion Ve­hi­cle from the BMW Group and fea­tures tech­nol­ogy, de­sign and new ways of think­ing that are set to fil­ter through to the Ger­man car­maker’s fu­ture pro­duc­tion cars.

The iNEXT en­vi­sions a fu­ture in which we’ll com­mute in au­ton­o­mous elec­tric cars, and much fo­cus has been placed on cre­at­ing a pleas­ant cabin en­vi­ron­ment where peo­ple can re­lax or work while the ve­hi­cle drives it­self.


“Driv­ers will have ever greater free­dom to de­cide how they wish to use the time spent trav­el­ling in a car. The de­sign of the ve­hi­cle’s in­te­rior will be­come in­creas­ingly im­por­tant, with the feel-good fac­tor play­ing a more prom­i­nent role,” says a BMW spokesper­son. “The BMW Vi­sion iNEXT has there­fore been cre­ated as a mo­bile space that of­fers real qual­ity of life and ad­dresses the need for a new ‘favourite space’ in which we can be our­selves and re­lax. The re­sul­tant de­sign ex­udes emo­tional ap­peal and con­veys a pos­i­tive sen­sa­tion when en­ter­ing the ve­hi­cle.”

The large and lounge-like cabin, styled with a mix of cloth and wood, cre­ates the kind of so­phis­ti­cated feel as­so­ci­ated with fur­ni­ture de­sign, in­clud­ing a cof­fee ta­ble-like cen­tre con­sole be­tween the front seats.

Pas­sen­gers sit in a “bou­tique” am­bi­ence awash with warm, wel­com­ing colours that are ac­cen­tu­ated by a shim­mer­ing metal­lic mys­tic bronze.

Smart tech­nol­ogy is in­te­grated in a con­cept BMW dubs shy tech. Fea­tures are only de­ployed when needed, so there’s vir­tu­ally no need for screens or but­tons. Func­tions can be op­er­ated us­ing sur­faces made of ma­te­ri­als such as wood or cloth.

The con­cept car fea­tures a modern take on the clas­si­cal BMW four-eyed front end, com­plete with su­per-slen­der head­lights, while cam­eras (rather than ex­te­rior mir­rors) show what’s hap­pen­ing be­hind.

The hi-tech elec­tric SUV, which will go on sale in 2021, will re­tain the sig­na­ture BMW kid­ney grille, but with no en­gine to cool, the blanked-off grille now serves as an “in­tel­li­gence panel” fit­ted with sen­sors re­quired for self-driv­ing ca­pa­bil­ity. The wind­screen ex­tends smoothly into a large panoramic roof, and there are two large op­pos­ing doors with no B-pil­lar sep­a­rat­ing them.

The car is painted a strik­ing liq­uid grey­rose cop­per paint fin­ish that grad­u­ally changes in shade from warm cop­per to dark rose.

Turn­ing on the au­dio sys­tem, for in­stance, could be achieved by draw­ing a mu­si­cal note on the panel of glow­ing dots that ap­pears on the seat up­hol­stery.

An in­tel­li­gent per­sonal as­sis­tant, a fea­ture that is about to be in­tro­duced in BMWs from March 2019, switches on in re­sponse to the prompt “Hey BMW” and al­lows the driver or pas­sen­gers to con­trol func­tions us­ing nat­u­ral spo­ken lan­guage.

The Vi­sion iNext will be in­ter­linked with smart de­vices and a smart home net­work, mak­ing it pos­si­ble for driv­ers to close the win­dows of their smart house, for ex­am­ple, by voice com­mand.

The ve­hi­cle will be pow­ered by two elec­tric mo­tors that will give it the abil­ity to ac­cel­er­ate from 0-96km/h in less than four sec­onds, with a claimed max­i­mum range of nearly 600km on a sin­gle charge.

The iNext will be one of 12 new elec­tric cars the BMW Group will launch by the end of 2025. The first will be the Mini Elec­tric com­pact hatch sched­uled for launch in 2019, fol­lowed by the iX3 small SUV in 2020, and an i4 sedan around 2021.

At the rear the slim lights cut deep into the car’s tail. With the badge miss­ing it would be dif­fi­cult to iden­tify this as a BMW. Top: A huge kid­ney grille con­trasts with su­per-slim head­lights. Left: The lounge-like cabin has min­i­mal clut­ter.

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