New 2021 BMW iNEXT targets 360-mile range

The new all-electric BMW iNEXT SUV will have a WLTP-verified range of 360 miles – and our exclusive image previews how it could look

BMW is targeting a WLTP-verified range of 360 miles for its forthcoming all-electric iNEXT SUV. The iNEXT was first unveiled at 2018 Los Angeles Motor Show in concept form and, when it reaches the UK in 2021, it will act as the technological halo for the brand’s zero-emissions “i” range, rivalling the Audi e-tron.

Our exclusive image previews how the BMW iNEXT could look. It’ll draw inspiration from the Vision iNEXT, albeit with a few practical design changes. Most noticeably, the rear suicide doors will be ditched in favour of conventional units, while the concept’s front end will be reworked with a smaller grille and an added air scoop.

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The concept’s missing B-pillar will be reinstated, while its wing-mounted cameras will be replaced with conventional rear-view mirrors. However, the concept’s slim LED headlights and swept-back panoramic windscreen look set to be transferred faithfully onto the production variant.

Over the last year, BMW has issued a suite of official teaser images which document the iNEXT’s testing programme. BMW’s most recent winter excursion explored the limits of the SUV’s all-wheel-drive system, and examined how cold weather affects the efficiency of its electric motor and the charging characteristics of its battery pack.

BMW is yet to reveal full information on the iNEXT’s performance and powertrain, but it has discussed its next-generation electric drivetrain and platform plans before. The iNEXT will be one of the first vehicles on BMW’s new ‘common platform,’ which is capable of supporting petrol, diesel, plug-in hybrid and fully-electric powertrains. 

Despite this, the iNEXT will only be offered as an electric vehicle, with a likely maximum battery size of 120kWh. Robert Irlinger, head of BMW’s i division, says the SUV has been designed as a “car for everyday use,” which will provide the means for customers of the plug-in hybrid X5 to move into full electrification.

BMW iNEXT SUV: interior teased

BMW recently issued a suite of teaser images of the iNEXT’s cabin, which offered our first look at the SUV’s polygonal steering wheel and infotainment system. The unconventionally shaped wheel has been designed to allow drivers to easily switch between autonomous and active driving modes, with BMW claiming its squared-off shape makes it easier to recognise the car’s steering angle.

BMW also sasy the iNEXT’s steering wheel will be fitted with optical fibres which can inform the driver when autonomous driving modes are available for use, as well as indicating situations where the driver is required to retake control of the vehicle.

A floating curved infotainment system, similar to that found on the iNEXT concept, will also feature – albeit without the additional smaller screen tacked onto the dashboard in front of the driver. BMW says it’s held in place by a lightweight magnesium bracket, and is mounted in such a way that the occupants can’t see its physical connection to the dashboard. The screen is also made from non-reflective glass.

Irlinger said: “iNEXT will be ‘all-in’ – everything we can do technology-wise in 2021 you will see in iNEXT. People have been asking why we’ve waited so long, but we waited for the next step in technology – it’s not only battery, it’s autonomous driving and it’s also new systems for communication and connection. All this technology will be new in 2021.”

BMW iNEXT SUV: exterior design

At just over five metres long, the Vision iNEXT concept is a large two-box SUV, similar in footprint to X5 and in height to an X6. The concept rides on 24-inch wheels, and is free of a B-pillar thanks to a set of ‘suicide’ rear-hinged back doors.

X7 cues are seen in the form of the tall and upright gills placed at each corner of the front apron. The new ‘streamflow’ style window line employed on the iVision Dynamics concept – which will become the i4 – makes it clear that this is an “i” car.

At the front end, extremely slim four-piece headlights sit either side of a huge interlinked kidney grille, blanked off to signify the car’s electric powertrain. In place of the traditional door mirrors are a pair of cameras – one facing forward and one backward – which, in combination with a selection of radars, lidars, cameras, GPS antennas and an external microphone, enable the iNEXT to drive with level 3 autonomous ability.

This will be enhanced further by the inclusion of 5G communication, which will eventually allow the facility for autonomous cars to communicate with each other, even in the sort of busy urban environments which, due to the interference of crowded networks, would make this impossible with Wi-Fi or 4G.

BMW Vision iNEXT concept

The iNEXT concept’s cabin is strictly experimental and does not preview the interior layout of the production car. As such, it’s loaded with a range of stargazing features that won’t be seen on the finished item.

Created from a combination of open-pore wood, illuminated crystal glass and textile cloth, the concept’s front compartment features a steering wheel that partially collapses into the dashboard and pedals which fold flush into the wooden floor when the concept is switched into autonomous mode.

The interior is constructed from vegan-friendly materials, and each seat in the boutique hotel-inspired cabin is unique. The lounge-style rear quarters is asymmetrical, with one side assuming a more relaxed position pointing towards the centre of the car. This will allow easier conversation with the front passenger, who is able to fold the headrest 90 degrees backwards to give a clearer view of those behind.

Hidden underneath a veneer of wood on the centre console and embedded in the fabric used on the vast rear bench is a combination of sensors and micro LEDs, which respond to the touch. Pinching and swiping like you would on a smartphone draws illuminated patterns on the surfaces, and allows those on board to control minor features such as music volume.

Similarly, there are no screens in the back of the concept. Instead, BMW showcases what it calls Intelligent Beam, which uses interactive projectors capable of tracking blank books and projecting information and entertainment straight onto the pages as an alternative to displays and tablets.

Do you think the BMW iNEXT SUV will meet its targeted range? Let us know in the comments section below…

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