At the BMW AG Annual General Meeting in May 2018, Harald Krüger, Chairman of the Board of Management at the BMW Group, described iNext as follows: “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.”
iNext addresses the big question that is at the heart of the BMW Group’s day-to-day work: “How will we be moving around in future?” iNext builds on the idea that first took shape in 2007 with “project i” and evolved into the launch of the BMW i3 in 2013.
The BMW Group has already achieved a great deal on this front: it now has over ten years of experience with electric mobility under its belt in both small-scale and large-scale production, the BMW i models are being improved all the time, and their technology is being employed to gradually electrify models from the BMW and MINI ranges.
The next step now is the complete in-car integration of the strategic innovation fields Autonomy + Connectivity + Electric + Services.
The Design, meanwhile, is a visual expression of the innovation fields and answers the question about what the driving pleasure experience is going to look like in future. BMW iNext will come onto the market in 2021.
“The BMW Vision iNext represents a new era of sheer driving pleasure,” said Harald Krüger. “It underlines the leading role Germany plays in the future of mobility.”
Highly automated, emission-free and fully connected, it brings together the BMW Group’s strategic innovation fields into a Vision Vehicle for the first time and provides revealing answers to the question: “What does a vehicle look like which no longer needs to be driven by a person but can be if desired?” At the heart of such deliberations are, more than ever, people – with all their emotions and desires.
The series-produced version of the BMW iNext will assume the role of a new technology flagship; production at Plant Dingolfing is slated to begin in 2021. It will take the BMW Group’s strategic innovation fields (“D+ACES”) onto the road for the first time as a single package.
A future-focused Vision Vehicle – the BMW Vision iNext – provides a tangible preview of how the BMW iNext might look. “Personal mobility is set to experience significant change,” explains 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 “Favourite Space” in which we can be ourselves and relax. Indeed, all of BMW’s endeavours will continue to revolve around people – and their needs and desires when it comes to mobility – in the future,” adds Fröhlich.
The large, interlinked double-kidney grille, the iconic side window graphic, and the blue accent surfaces at the front, sides and rear have clearly adopted the BMW i styling that already featured on the BMW i Vision Dynamics presented in 2017.
Unlocking the vehicle causes the blue accents to light up. Glass surfaces such as the large windows and the lights are integrated into the design and have the appearance of elaborate inlays.
In the centre of the front end stands a large, upright kidney grille. As with all electrically powered vehicles, the grille is blanked off. With no combustion engine to require cooling, the kidney element now serves as an “intelligence panel” housing various sensors.
A 3D-printed pattern points to the technology below the surface. Super-slim headlights are part of a modern interpretation of BMW’s signature four-eyed front end. The windscreen extends smoothly into a large panoramic roof, ensuring the innovative interior is clearly visible from the outside.
The large (24-inch) wheels are aerodynamically efficient. Cameras assume the job of the exterior mirrors, while touch-sensitive illuminated graphics take the place of conventional door openers. There are two large opposing doors with no B-pillar separating them.
When opened, they provide an unobstructed view of the interior, while the frame reveals carbon-fibre surfaces. Black cladding incorporates a blue accent strip as a marker of the vehicle’s electric drive system.
The air flows along the roof and this combines with a diffuser – that is illuminated for added impact – to enhance the car’s aerodynamics.
Drivers can choose to either drive themselves (in “Boost” mode) or be driven (“Ease” mode). “Boost” mode uses the electric drive system to deliver a highly dynamic and virtually silent driving experience with zero emissions.
In “Ease” mode, the vehicle offers the driver and passengers a space in which to engage in a wide range of activities. Accordingly, the cabin is more akin to a comfortable and fashionably furnished “living space” on wheels – a new “Favourite Space”.
The large panoramic roof floods the interior with light. Two individual seats in the front plus a one-piece bench in the rear mean there is room for up to four people. A blend of cloth and wood materials produces a high-quality impression and makes various elements resemble furniture.
Inside the cockpit, the driver’s area is defined by the two visible digital display panels and the steering wheel. In “Boost” mode, the steering wheel and displays are positioned clearly towards the driver.
When “Ease” mode is engaged, the driver’s immediate environment changes: the steering wheel retracts slightly, creating a more open sense of space. The display panels switch from driving-related content to “Exploration Mode”, which provides the driver and passengers with suggestions of places and events in the surrounding area that could be of interest to them.
Plus, the front seat head restraints can be folded back, allowing the people in the front to communicate more effectively with the passengers in the rear.
Apart from the steering wheel and displays in the driver’s area, there are no other screens or controls to be seen. In order to preserve the homely character of the rear compartment, and therefore keep the people on board at centre stage, the intelligent technology is integrated out of sight.
Only when it is required by the driver or passengers does the technology becomes visible and operable. For example, in future it may be possible to operate various functions via surfaces made out of wood or cloth. Displays would no longer be essential, as intelligent projection could turn any surface into an interactive display.
The BMW Vision iNext highlights three different, visionary applications for this “Shy Tech” in the form of Intelligent Personal Assistant, Intelligent Materials and Intelligent Beam.