By on September 16, 2018

BMW has showcased the new flagship SUV for the electric i brand. Called the Vision iNext, the vehicle’s aim is to make customers appreciate what’s on the inside — which is important when you’re moving into mobility and out of driving. BMW claims that the model represents the union of vehicular autonomy, connectivity, electrification, and services. It also represents the end of the car as we currently know it.

Don’t confuse the iNext as the death knell of motoring, though. This remains a concept car, not something that you’ll see appearing in your neighbor’s garage in the coming months. Despite promising a production model in 2021, this is still a conceptual exercise — BMW’s attempt at building a crystal ball that allows it to peer into the future. While we’re not going to argue the validity of clairvoyance or scrying, we will suggest that the utility vehicle is probably a more useful forecasting tool than a glass orb and a gut feeling. 

It’s loaded with cutting-edge technologies we’re likely to see gradually creep into automobiles over the next decade and some extra-fancy stuff that will probably remain limited to high-end nameplates. Powertrain details were absent but, even if they had been made available, they’d be largely meaningless. This is not foreshadowing any production model in BMW’s lineup so much as it’s a loose blueprint for the brand’s advanced, electrified future.

The Vision iNext serves as a reminder that BMW intends to begin selling 12 new EVs by 2025 (one of which will probably share its name) and claims to still be on track to deliver Level 4 autonomy by 2021.

While it has human controls for moments when you want to engage in some spirited driving, the iNext is clearly designed to encourage people not to use them. A projector in the car’s ceiling beams video onto any blank surface. Passengers can then use gesture controls to digitally “turn the page,” if they’re reading, or “change the channel,” if they’re watching television. While this isn’t actually all that more convenient than bringing a paperback or fully charged cellphone, it does show that BMW is aiming to surpass the status quo.

A large panoramic roof invites passengers to relax and take in the scenery while they enjoy a glut of natural light. Meanwhile, an Intelligent Personal Assistant ensures they’ll be able to continue taking it easy throughout the journey. The iNext can be seamlessly interlinked with the BMW Connected, smart devices and smart home network, making it possible for drivers to do things like adjust the thermostat or close the garage through in-car voice commands. Although, you could also use the center display in a pinch.

The interior is designed to be as lavish as possible and closely mimic a living space. It’s rear seat is a single wide bench covered in BMW’s “Enlighted Cloudburst cloth upholstery with its intricate Jacquard weave” and serves as the drivable apartment’s couch. Intended for two, it’s could easily facilitate more. However, that third occupant would be parked on the mid-seat gesture controls that allow riders to draw various symbols in the fabric that adjust audio levels or ambient lighting (or just doodle with help from the light projector). The rest of the iNext’s interior takes a more neutral approach. It’s minimal, modern, and beige with some natural wood thrown in for good measure.

About the size of a BMW X5, the iNext’s exterior could hint at that model’s eventual form. Everything is in roughly the right place — except for the side mirrors, which have been replaced by cameras. None of it is to scale, however. Forward and rear illumination points have been converted into paper-thin slits while the kidney grille has been oversized and stretched down to an extreme degree.

We’ve see this vertical, LED-lined grille design appearing on a few electric concepts lately. The four-door i Vision Dynamics “Grand Coupe” concept has one that is almost identical, meaning this could become a hallmark feature on models that don’t prioritize internal combustion. It looks completely ridiculous, though. Hopefully, that aspect gets toned down a bit before 2021.

[Images: BMW]

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