as exciting as concept cars are, often the reality is that their designs or features either never come into production or filter into the market many years later. BMW has always been different in this sense, just take the concept 8 series, Z4 and X7 for example. and, even more so, the BMW vision iNEXT is also different. it not only reflects the new challenges facing automotive design such as the changing ideas of personal mobility, but does so with a unique, ground-breaking design that will be in production in 2021. shown at the LA auto show 2018, the concept might be futuristic but, in reality, we will see it on our streets very soon.

 

exploring the design itself, as well as how its overall experience creates a new favorite space, adrian van hooydonk, BMW group’s VP of design, details the concept to designboom.


all images courtesy of BMW

 

 

shifting in shade from front to rear, the BMW vision iNEXT features a unique greyrose copper finish that is said to age with the user. the side profile also highlights its honest design. few definitive lines – apart from around the wheel arches – define an exterior of sculpted surfaces that not only looks incredibly elegant but also dynamic and bold. furthermore, details like the window edges and LED strips reflect how the car symbolizes the next chapter for BMW i and its even more capable electric performance.

 

 

if the exterior seemed unique, the BMW vision iNEXT’s interior accentuates this feeling even more so. once the carriage doors open up automatically as passengers approach, the space is immediately welcoming with no B-pillars, just an expansive, light-filled environment. the interior is described as ‘my favorite space’ as, like never before in the automotive industry, the cabin is a place of endless opportunity. with two driving modes – ease and boost – the car transitions from autonomous to traditional driving and adjusts the interior accordingly. driving equipment recedes and furniture adapts so that passengers can orientate however they wish and connect with each other.

 

 

the furniture, which appears more like bespoke designs for boutique hotels, are beautifully crafted from rich materials and bathed in calm, elegant colors. however, seemingly invisible, beneath these traditional-appearing designs feature enriching technology. called ‘shy tech’, the rear bench, which is fabricated from a jacquad technique, exemplifies this as it is weaved with intelligent materials that turns the fabric into a digital interface when touched by passengers. furthermore, the AI controls and projection light further showcases how the interior is a space of opportunity.

 

 

designboom (DB): following on from the i project, how does iNEXT vizualize the next chapter of mobility?

 

adrian van hooydonk (AvH): created almost 12 years old, we have always viewed BMW i as our in-house start-up. it was tasked with thinking about all the challenges that were developing in automotive design and turn them into new, great opportunities. the i3 and i8 connected this new type of mobility with the very core of the BMW brand: emotion and dynamics. however, now it is time for BMW i to move the goal posts again and take on new challenges, such as artificial intelligence. AI might be a subject customers are afraid of but, initially, they were also afraid of electric mobility. some say that AI is threatening as it could take away the last big of fun and self-determination on the road, but the BMW vision iNEXT shows that this is simply not the case.

 

 

DB: what does BMW recognize as the key changes in personal mobility, especially the changing definition of driving pleasure, and how does the vision iNEXT accommodate these transformations?

 

AvH: like many BMW customers, I like the self-determination of driving and so does the rest of our design team. we have always paid a lot of attention to how the cockpit is laid out and how all the control elements are designed. now, when we tackle this new challenge of autonomous drive, the vision iNEXT makes sure that it does not feel like the car is taking control. our customers would not want that and neither would we. we do, however, see the great potential in the technology. for five hour journeys, for example, people would be happy to hand over control for long periods of that drive. we all live very busy lives with never enough time for everything. now people can actually do things during their drives in this car.

 

 

DB: continuing with the smooth body surfaces of BMW’s most recent concepts, the vision iNEXT’s exterior is paired with a few definitive lines and i styling edges. is this sculpted work aimed to showcase the improved capabilities of electric mobility?

 

AvH: with the i8, we wanted to revolutionize the appearance of urban sports cars. the BMW vision iNEXT aims to revolutionize another vehicle category, which is the sports activity vehicle. these are typically a little bit bigger so it is harder to make the car look nimble and light whilst also powerful. I believe we managed this with very few design elements on the vision iNEXT; there are very few lines on the exterior. whilst the body is sculpted out towards the wheel, there are also only a few precise lines that emphasize this part.

 

 

DB: as a concept so different to anything the automotive industry has seen before, why does the vision iNEXT’s interior aim to feel more like a home than a cockpit?

 

AvH:  when the car is autonomous, people are much more free. the interior is an even bigger revolution as we have cleaned up the space drastically. it is more like a living room or hotel lobby, where there is a bench in the rear and two different seats in the front. they are all sculpted in a way that connects them to the door panels. that allows passengers to take different seating positions when in autonomous mode, which is what people do in chairs anyway. the front seats’ headrests fold back so that people can lean and talk with those in the rear. it is an interior of ideas of how people can interact with each other in a much easier, relaxed and inviting way. 

 

 

DB: bathed within a nude environment with subtle highlights of color and different materials, will these exact options be available in the production car?

 

AvH: we will be working on everything that the concept car has for production. a lot of the features have never been achieved before so it does take time. however, after a couple more years of work, I feel very comfortable that we achieve this.

 

 

DB: can you explain how implementing intelligent materials improves our mobility experience and lives?

 

AvH: the use of intelligent materials showcases that with more technology, a car does not need to become more complicated. up until now, every new feature in a car has led to a new button or control. customers want to be able to have a personal experience and adjust settings to their preference, but it all needs to be simple and easily understood. as well, with on-demand mobility, an interior needs to be understandable instantly. people might only have the car for 10 minutes so there is no time to read a manual and figure it all out. these intelligent features, including AI, helps improve this experience.

 

 

DB: with the concept going into production in 2021, will the model signal an important moment for BMW and electric mobility?

 

AvH: at the same time as this model going into production 2021, the i vision dynamics – the concept car we revealed at the frankfurt auto show 2017 – will be launched into production and be called the i4. from that year on, we will also offer two four-door production cars with plenty of interior space, luggage capability, connectivity, and a very usable range of roughly 600 km or so. it will be a moment where BMW will significantly increase the volume of electric cars in our portfolio. electric mobility will then merge with the core of our brand and customers will be able to ultimately get what they want from us, which are cars that are fast, elegant and zero emission.

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