BMW has dropped multiple hints over the past couple of years about a new technological flagship code-named the iNext, and at its annual general meeting held in Munich on Thursday the automaker provided an early glimpse at the vehicle which is due in 2021.
The teaser goes some way toward confirming the iNext as a crossover SUV with styling influenced by the i Vision Dynamics concept (shown below) unveiled at the 2017 Frankfurt auto show. We can expect the final design to be similar in size and shape to an X5, in other words a mid-size SUV.
Speaking at the annual general meeting, BMW CEO Harald Krüger said a concept previewing the iNext will be revealed this year.
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.
BMW has confirmed the iNext will be a pure electric vehicle with a fifth-generation battery design. The biggest battery is expected to be a 120-kilowatt-hour unit with over 400 miles of range.
BMW i Vision Dynamics concept, 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show
The automaker has also confirmed the iNext will offer Level 3 self-driving capability in certain highway situations. Level 3 means the driver can let go of the wheel and even look away for extended periods, though they have to be ready to take over within seconds.
BMW in April said the iNext will also be capable of Level 4 self-driving, though this feature may not be offered to the public initially. This is because the situations required will be very limited and regulations may not be ready in time to support it. BMW said the iNext's Level 4 capability will function in traffic moving in the same direction and where there is a solid barrier separating oncoming traffic. Level 4 capability is similar to Level 3, with the key difference being a much longer time span given to the driver to take back control.
As for the interface technology, BMW hinted at the possibilities with its i Future Interaction unveiled at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show. The highlight was a gesture control system called AirTouch that enables control of entertainment, navigation and communication functions using purely hand gestures. Also planned for the iNext will be new connectivity features.
Underpinning the iNext will be the BMW Group's CLAR modular platform designed for large cars, and production will take place at the automaker's main plant located close to its Munich headquarters.
The iNext will be one of 12 electric cars that the BMW Group will launch by the end of 2025. The first of these will be an electric Mini Hardtop due in 2019. It will be followed by an iX3 in 2020, and then the iNext in 2021. An i4 sedan has also been confirmed.