BMW is working on a technological flagship code-named the iNext, which the automaker previewed last September with the Vision iNext concept and has since confirmed is coming in 2021.
A prototype for the iNext has now been spotted, revealing a few clues about the vehicle that in production guise could be badged an i5.
The iNext is a battery-electric crossover SUV similar in size and shape to the X5. The roofline is lower, though, for a more aerodynamic profile, and the face of the vehicle should sport a unique treatment likely with a sealed-off grille. Inside should be adequate space for five adults.
BMW Vision iNext concept
Being a technological flagship for BMW, the iNext will incorporate multiple technologies that will define the automaker's cars going into the future, the three main ones being electric propulsion, self-driving capability, and advanced interfaces.
The iNext will be the first BMW to feature the automaker's fifth-generation battery design, which will be integrated with BMW's existing CLAR modular platform for the iNext. The biggest battery is expected to be a 120-kilowatt-hour unit capable of more than 400 miles of range.
The iNext will also be the first BMW with self-driving capability. Only Level 3 self-driving capability will be available at launch. This will allow drivers to let go of the steering wheel for extended periods of time and even look away from the road, but they must be prepared to take control at any time. No naps behind the wheel of the iNext.
2022 BMW iNext spy shots - Image via S. Baldauf/SB-Medien
BMW has stated that Level 4 self-driving capability may be included, but it likely won't be offered to the public at first due to a lack of regulations and sufficient infrastructure. The situations required to initiate Level 4 capability will be few and far between under today's current traffic and roadway layouts.
For the interior, the Vision iNext concept likely points the way. The concept featured controls integrated into furnishings that light up only when an occupant brushes a finger over them. Gesture control and natural-speak voice activation were also included.
Production of the iNext will be handled at BMW's main plant in Dingolfing, Germany, starting in 2021. We'll likely see the vehicle on sale in the summer of that year as a 2022 model. Other BMW EVs in the pipeline include an iX3 SUV in 2020 and an i4 sedan in 2021.