Huge kidney grille contrasts with super-slim headlights. Picture: SUPPLIED
Huge kidney grille contrasts with super-slim headlights. Picture: SUPPLIED

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. 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 minimal clutter. Functions can be operated using the large touchscreens as well as by pressing on the wood and cloth surfaces. Picture: SUPPLIED
Lounge-like cabin has minimal clutter. Functions can be operated using the large touchscreens as well as by pressing on the 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 that 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.

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.

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. Picture: SUPPLIED
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. 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 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.