BMW Vision M Next: A Boost for self-driving cars



CarBuyer is in Munich for an exclusive look at how BMW plans to write its own future

MUNICH, GERMANY — You’re looking at a concept car, but also a philosophy. Earlier today BMW pulled the covers off the Vision M Next, a plug-in hybrid concept that aims to show how the headlong rush to electrification won’t have to come at the expense of driving pleasure.

Let’s get the headline numbers out of the way first: the radical coupe has a plug-in hybrid drivetrain with motors on both axles and a 2.0-litre turbo that drives the rear wheels. Altogether they’re good for 600 horsepower, which launches the all-wheel drive machine to 100km/h in a scintillating 3 seconds flat.

Unlike the i8, the Vision M Next has an all-wheel drive electric-only mode (the i8 is front-drive when driven without petrol), and it can travel 100km on a single charge.

Styling wise, you’ll see elements of the i8 in there, along with hints of the iconic BMW M1, whether in the gullwing doors and the colour-blocking of the bodywork (which contrasts its orange paint with metallic silver) or the wedge shape and twin BMW badges in the back.

But while the i8 and M1 represented BMW’s past efforts to serve up driving pleasure, the M Next is about the future. Specifically, it’s a meeting of BMW’s eco “i” brand and its high performance “M” division.

Beyond that, the Vision M Next clarifies BMW’s thinking about how to stay relevant to keen drivers in a future of self-driving cars.

Its engineers see two driving modes for its future cars: “Ease”, which is when the car does the driving and the occupants relax, and “Boost”, which is when the human urge to take over the wheel comes into play.

Last year BMW played up the Ease mode with the Vision iNext concept car, and the Vision M Next gives hints about what Boost will be like.

Need a frinstance? The car has a Boost Pod, a driver interface that splits information over three display levels — two small screens on the steering wheel, a curved glass display that wraps around the wheel, and a head up display system with augmented reality. It’s an active system, so the faster you go, the more it prioritises certain info and moves it into the driver’s field of vision.

The car itself isn’t slated for production, and apart from showcasing what Boost will be like, it’s a signpost that BMW is on track with its electrification plans. If anything, the company says it’s ahead — it will have 25 electrified cars on sale by 2023, two years ahead of target. More than half of those will be fully electric.

The brand has put 400,000 electrified vehicles on the road, and wants to double its annual sales of such cars by 2021 compared to today. In the first five months of 2019 it sold 47,900 electrified cars worldwide.

[Stay with us for more on this story as it develops]

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Leow Ju-Len
Leow Ju-Len is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 23 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.