BMW has been revealing hints and teases of its upcoming electrified vehicles, including one the company has called a "game changer" for more than a year. Now, the company is giving us a complete look at the vehicle the company chair is calling "a new era of sheer driving pleasure." The BMW Vision iNext is a preview of what the 2021 production iNext might look like.
Outside, the iNext takes BMW's latest styling and adds a dose of aggression. The signature twin-kidney grille is now conjoined, framed by the narrow and pinched headlights that trail back to where the mirrors would normally be found. That kidney shape is echoed in the greenhouse, with the side glass taking on that BMW signature, ending with an X2 and i3-like floating roof. The automaker says that the iNext is the same size as the company's current SUVs, though not which one.
Inside is where this BMW shines, and that's because this one is intended to be autonomous. BMW Chairman of the Board Harald Krüger asks the question "what does a vehicle look like which no longer needs to be driven by a person but can be if desired?"
The large full glass roof lights up the minimalist interior. Between the front seats is a wide wood and fabric console that wouldn't be out of place in your living room. In the back, the bench looks more sofa than car seat. The wide dash is unadorned with dials and buttons. In their place are two screens: one large, one absolutely massive. In a vehicle that drives itself, the clean design of all-screens seems more appropriate. Hunting through menus for controls is much safer when you're not also trying to drive.
The cabin offers the driver two modes, Boost and Ease. Boost brings the controls and screens to the driver. Ease retracts the steering wheel and changes the display panels to a mode that suggests places and events in the area that they might find interesting.
It's also full of what BMW calls Shy Tech. Technology features that stay hidden until you need to use them. Like projection that could turn each surface into a display instead of having a screen. And intelligent materials that turn surfaces into controllers on demand. The Jacquard cloth in the rear seat has this integral control feature that traces your finger's touch letting you, for example, play music by drawing a musical note.
If some of these features seem a little too futuristic, they are. BMW calls them future technologies that may be possible. So don't expect them by 2021. The same goes for some of the autonomous driving features, as regulations (and technology) still hasn't made that possible just yet.
The Vision iNext is our glimpse of how BMW sees its upcoming SUV. It also takes a new look at how to use the space inside a car when you've chosen not to drive.