BMW is having its own pseudo car-show this week in Munich called “NEXTGen,”and the first of the new vehicles to come out of it is a 600 horsepower hybrid sports car concept called the BMW Vision M NEXT. Here’s a look at every angle of this peculiar sports car, which the company’s chief technology officer seems pretty keen to put into production.
(Full Disclosure: BMW flew me to Munich, and put me up in a fine hotel just to show me some cool car things.)
Earlier this month, BMW showed off some abstract pictures taken by photographer Thomas Demand, who got a sneak preview of the BMW Vision M NEXT and used cardboard and paper models as a basis for his photos. Those teaser images were colorful and pretty, but didn’t reveal a whole lot about the car. But that’s okay, because the wait is now over. Here’s BMW’s newest concept car in its entirety:
In some ways, the Vision M NEXT gives off i8 vibes from the side, particularly when you look at that horizontal line stemming from the rear of each side window, and also when you look at the slope of the hood.
At least on the top half, the rear is a quite smooth and simple, painted in a ridiculously bright color that BMW says is a matt-neon shade called “Thrilling Orange.” The company says this “color blocking” we see here is meant to give a modern look to the car that “emphasises its inherent dynamism.” (Yes, the classic buzzword, dynamism. We’re still trying to figure out what it means. One of these centuries, we’ll get there).
The taillights look great. They’re thin light strips (technically, wafer thin glass fibers, BMW says) that run horizontally outboard until they reach a trapezoidal shape that contains an illuminated BMW emblem. They then run around the perimeter of that trapezoid before dropping down and continuing on to the lower fascia, at which point they make a right angle towards the inside of the vehicle.
Things look pretty damn aggressive up front, with two hood vents, enormous 8 Series-ish grille openings, and a strong “backbone” running through the center of the hood that reminds me a tiny bit of a Mercedes SLR McLaren, though BMW wants it to remind you of the BMW E25 Turbo, from which this car apparently received design inspiration.
In case you don’t remember the BMW Turbo, that was the car BMW designed to celebrate the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics, and then later used as a development car to test new technologies (particular safety technologies).
But unlike the BMW Turbo, the Vision M NEXT’s “backbone” (which is really more of a nose bone) doesn’t stand proud, it’s actually recessed, as shown in this picture, which also displays just how wide the ducts (or at least they look like ducts) are in the hood. It also shows louvers on the rear glass, which BMW says were inspired by the M1:
Here’s an in-person shot I took of those hood vents:
Now that I look more at the BMW Turbo, I do see a bit of a similarity between the general shape of its tail and that of BMW’s new concept.
Both rear ends are a bit taller on the outside, and, on the top, dip down towards the center. Plus, the same thing appears to be going on underneath—the colorful fascias are low on the outside of the car, but they rise up to create an “arch” over a black component. In the case of the Vision M Next, that component is also a large diffuser (and a license plate mount) made of recycled carbon fiber, the same material used for the car’s side-skirts that you may have noticed duct air into an opening just in front of the rear wheels.
Here’s a close-up shot of that recycled carbon fiber air channel, which apparently improves aerodynamic performance:
Looking closer at the front end, we find a grille that frankly looks like a computer graphic. BMW says its designers created a transparent grille and put some laser-etched illumination on it, as well as some color behind it to give it depth. Per BMW:
The soft outer curves of the kidney grille openings are reminiscent of a turbine’s air intake and give the front end added dynamic impact, while the colour gradient used for the inside of the two kidney elements creates a sense of depth. The grille openings are each blanked off by a transparent layer with a laser-etched, illuminated pattern that seems to be floating inside – a highly sophisticated touch that gives added emphasis to this section of the car.
It looks pretty freaking cool in these images, and it looks equally good in person:
Also impressive to see in person are the car’s Laser Wire front headlights, which sit above a giant orange “triangular element” that feeds an air intake. Those lights apparently include glass fibers coated with phosphorous, as BMW describes below:
Arranged one above the other rather than side by side, their constituent elements represent a highly distinctive interpretation of BMW’s classic four-eyed front end. The headlights hand a debut to Laser Wire lighting technology, whereby glass fibres coated with phosphorous are used to produce headlight elements with a new, super-slim and extremely precise form. All of which further underscores the Vision Vehicle’s future-focused character.
Speaking of nice design elements like those lights and that grille, let’s look at the most obvious sexy feature, the gullwing doors:
BMW says the Vision M NEXT “draws its inspiration from the iconic BMW Turbo and groundbreaking BMW i8,” and between the doors, the general shape of the tail end, the character lines running down the center of the hood, and the way the side glass tapers off into a nice horizontal line, I can see where BMW is coming from.
The brand says the car is a plug-in hybrid that has an electric motor at each axle to allow for pure-electric driving in rear or all-wheel drive modes, though on top of that, a “powerful” four-cylinder engine can spin up the rear wheels. BMW says maximum power output is 600 ponies, top speed is 186 mph, and 62 mph comes in only three seconds. Once at 62 mph, you’ll run out juice in roughly a single hour (in other words, the range is 62 miles).
BMW has been saying the words “BOOST” and “EASE” quite a lot when discussing future vehicle plans, with the latter buzzword meant to describe certain comfort-related attributes of a self-driving vehicle like the BMW Vision iNEXT, and the former representing the “ultimate active driving experience.” In the press release for the new Vision M NEXT, BMW emphasizes the BOOST term. In other words, BMW sees this car as a representation of a truly fun to drive electrified car, with the company’s Senior Vice President of design Adrian van Hooydonk, saying:
The BMW Vision M NEXT provides a glimpse into the future of sporty driving...Where the BMW Vision iNEXT illustrated how autonomous driving is set to transform life on board our vehicles, the BMW Vision M NEXT demonstrates how state-of-the-art technology can also make the experience of driving yourself purer and more emotionally engaging.
Key to that apparent driver-oriented nature of this concept is the interior. Getting into the car involves a facial recognition sensor to unlock and a touch sensor to open the gullwings. Inside, things are fairly basic, with BMW calling it “deliberately restrained” so that the driver can focus on carving corners.
One of the main elements to the interior is called the “Boost Pod,” which includes two displays in the steering wheel, a curved glass display in front of that, and a head-up display even farther forward. You can see the setup above (the front of the vehicle is oriented to the right), and here’s how it would theoretically looking if you were driving it for some reason wearing black leather gloves:
It’s not even close to being BMW’s wackiest concept car, but it’s definitely a bit “out there” with the ridiculously bright orange color adorning the front and rear, the illuminated grille, and the downright odd interior. Still, I can see how, with some teaks, it could eventually enter production.
Some sites have been speculating that this car provides a first look at a BMW i8 successor, but a company rep told me that the name “Vision M” implies that this could be a first look at a future M-car, not i-car. For now, BMW says the vehicle is just an exercise, though it’s worth remembering that the BMW i8 started out as an exercise called the BMW Vision EfficientDynamics back in 2009, and the production car ended up looking pretty darned similar.
Plus, at a round-table today, BMW CTO Klaus Froehlich responded to a journalist when asked whether the company will build the Vision M Next: “We deliver what we promise.” He then continued by saying it all depends on what the journalists write about the car, and whether the public gets excited. “This time I rely on you,” he said.