• Vision iNext combines autonomy and EV capability
  • New design to influence future products
  • Promised as soon as 2021


BMW is touting its Vision iNext concept vehicle as a showcase for hardware that underpins its future vehicle products, but more important it addresses the traditional manufacturer’s transition into a new business model that provides mobility. The iNext combines styling and fully autonomous EV technology in a crossover SUV package that the company says could be on the road as soon as 2021.

The German auto maker has promised to have 25 electrified vehicles, 12 of which are full EVs, on the market by 2025. And it is pursuing technologies that will provide mobility and related services as an expansion of its operating philosophy.

“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,” said Harald Krüger, BMW Group chairman. The Vision iNext concept is designed to demonstrate complete in-car integration of elements from BMW’s ACES strategy which is to provide Autonomy, Connectivity, Electrification and Services in all its vehicles.

BMW X5-sized vehicle

The Vision iNext concept is about the size of the current BMW X5. It has a traditional hood, tall stance and large cabin with additional storage behind the rear seat, just like current crossovers. The traditional BMW twin-kidney grille is taller and more open. Instead of a traditional grille, the insert is a panel with a textured design behind which sits the sensors, Lidar and radar units that enable the vehicle’s autonomous operation.

The vehicle is rather slab sided, but the window opening features a pillarless design that mimics the shape of the front grille, although in a more horizonal fashion. The iNext is equipped with coach-style doors that provide B-pillarless ease of entry into the cabin. Since the iNext is designed to either be driven or operate autonomously, the cabin layout is conventional with a dash board with retractable steering wheel, two pedals inset into the floor, a driver-oriented instrument display screen and a large center infotainment unit.

Seating inspired by modern furniture

While the 2-row layout of the cabin is conventional, the seating and surfaces are anything but. The front two bucket seats resemble lounge chairs, the wood-covered center console resembles a table and the rear bench has an asymmetrical design to the seat back to encourage a passenger there to stretch out across the back. A large panoramic sunroof provides plenty of natural light and the interior color choices are muted to promote relaxation.

A unique feature is embedding touch controls into the seat material and wood accents themselves. By tracing basic commands, occupants can control the audio system including sound levels as well as other entertainment and climate functions. BMW also envisions using intelligent projection that can turn any surface inside the car into an interactive display.

Two modes: Boost and Ease

Promising that “the BMW Vision iNext represents a new era of sheer driving pleasure,” Krüger said that while the concept does have an autonomous operation mode, it will also when driven deliver the driving satisfaction for which its vehicles are known. As a result, the iNext is equipped with two modes, Boost, where the driver is in control, and Ease, where the vehicle will be capable of full autonomous operation. In Boost, the steering wheel extends out from the dash and the displays are oriented towards the driver. The electric powertrain is configured to deliver “a highly dynamic and virtually silent driving experience with zero emissions,” according to BMW. In Ease mode, the wheel is stowed with the display screens dedicated to delivery entertainment or connected communication.

As part of the connectivity package, the iNext offers BMW’s new intelligent personal assistant which switches on to the prompt “Hey, BMW.” The vehicle is integrated with BMW Connected concierge services, as well as smart devices and home networks.

BMW didn’t reveal any details about the drivetrain, range or other technical specifications of iNext or the production vehicle on which it is based, only promising that such a vehicle will be on the market in 2021.

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