Los Angeles Auto Show

A BMW as you've never seen before

High-tech Vision iNEXT electric concept peers into BMW's not-too-distant future

28 November 2018 - 12:00 By Denis Droppa
The signature BMW kidney grille swells to dramatic proportions. With no engine to cool in the electric vehicle, the blanked-off grille now serves as an "intelligence panel" fitted with sensors required for self-driving capability. Picture: SUPPLIED
The signature BMW kidney grille swells to dramatic proportions. With no engine to cool in the electric vehicle, the blanked-off grille now serves as an "intelligence panel" fitted with sensors required for self-driving capability. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Vision iNEXT celebrating its world premiere at this week’s Los Angeles Auto Show provides a glimpse into BMW’s 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 automaker’s future production cars.

The iNEXT envisions a future where 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. There’s still a steering wheel and owners can choose to drive themselves.

“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.”

Lounge-like cabin has a “boutique” ambience with warm colours and a lack of buttons. Functions are summoned by using the touchscreen or pressing touch-sensitive wood and cloth surfaces. Picture: SUPPLIED
Lounge-like cabin has a “boutique” ambience with warm colours and a lack of buttons. Functions are summoned by using the touchscreen or pressing touch-sensitive wood and cloth surfaces. Picture: SUPPLIED

The large and lounge-like cabin is 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 which are accentuated by a shimmering metallic “Mystic Bronze”.

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

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. At the rear, the slim rear lights cut deep into the car’s tail.

Without the badge there's little to discern this as a BMW from the rear view. Picture: SUPPLIED
Without the badge there's little to discern this as a BMW from the rear view. Picture: SUPPLIED

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 which gradually changes in shade from warm copper to dark rose.

Wooden table helps give the cabin its lounge-like atmosphere, though we're not so sure about the pink upholstery. Picture: SUPPLIED
Wooden table helps give the cabin its lounge-like atmosphere, though we're not so sure about the pink upholstery. Picture: SUPPLIED

An Intelligent Personal Assistant - a feature that is about to be introduced in BMWs from March next year - 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 which will give it the ability to accelerate from 0-96km/h in under 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.

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