BMW has unveiled the BMW Vision M Next – a concept car that is designed to “provide a glimpse into the future of sporty driving”. Taking centre stage at BMW's #NEXTGEN event at BMW Werk in Munich, the Vision M Next concept trail blazes a new PHEV drivetrain along with looks that clearly allude to the M1. But whilst it might hark back to BMW's 1970 supercar, what we're likely looking at is the next i8, rumours about which have abounded recently.
As well as the Vision M Next, BMW has reaffirmed its commitment to PHEVs across its model range and, as part of the #NEXTGEN event, revealed just what it could do with EVs – if it wanted to...
BMW isn't hiding the fact that the design of the Vision M Next takes many cues from classic models and let's be honest; it looks like a re-imagined M1. BMW itself states that it's a “modern interpretation of classic BMW icons”.
It's a feast of classic BMW design elements – from the deep, turbine-style kidney front grille, through the rising waistline, gullwing doors and Hofmeister kink, back to the M1-style louvre rear screen and 2002 Turbo-style roundels in the rear lights.
BMW has been wrestling with the issue of the additional weight a PHEV supercar has to carry. Its solution is carbon fibre – lots of eco-friendly recycled carbon fibre – to keep the weight down. The German brand is also not hiding from the fact that the Vision M Next concept is no longer sitting in the 'supercar lite' niche (think somewhere between fast cars and proper supercars) that the i8 occupies; instead, the figures from its powertrain suggest that it's going after the likes of Ferrari and McLaren.
Underneath the retro looks, the Vision M Next is powered by a brand new drivetrain that is a step-up in every respect from the current i8. It will be offered in two- or four-wheel-drive and mates a four cylinder turbo petrol engine with an electric motor to give a total system output of 591bhp. Top speed is mooted to be 186mph and 0-62mph comes up in around three seconds. There's also a BOOST+ mode that allows drivers to access more power for more of the time while pressing on, while in normal driving the EASE mode will keep things on the calmer side.
On electric power alone the Vision M Next will have a range of 62 miles – ample for most journeys and day-to-day applications. BMW isn't currently telling us the breakdown of ICE and electric motor power, or battery capacity, but expect those details as the Vision M Next becomes more than just a... well... vision.
Inside, BMW has created what it is calling the 'BOOST pod' – a driver/vehicle interface that ensures that drivers can concentrate on the road and driving experience itself without unnecessary distractions. Peeling away the hyperbole, the driving 'area' is set up to wrap around the driver and, like an F1 car, provide driving information at a glance and allow settings to be changed at the touch of a steering wheel-based button.
Information such as speed, revs and energy management is split between displays above the dragster-style steering wheel and a head-up display. If drivers really want, they can even monitor their heart rate in the Vision M Next...
Alongside the Vision M Next BMW has shown off its Power BEV, a demonstrator based on a 5 Series which demonstrates what BMW could do. In short, what it could do is pure madness wrapped up in Teutonic conformity; a 5 Series with three electric motors providing a total of 711bhp and a phantasmagorical (read: utterly bonkers) 7375lb-ft of torque. This enables the Power BEV to hit 62mph in 'comfortably under' three seconds, probably reversing the spin of the earth whilst it's at it.
The link to reality in the madness is the type of motors the Power BEV uses, which are the same as will make their way into the production iX3 due for release in 2020, albeit the iX3 only gets one of them. Regardless, the Power BEV is a talking point and a stark demonstration of the power that EVs can deploy.
The important story around the Vision M Next and Power BEV it is the fact that BMW is really pushing forward with electrifying its fleet. It is now planning to have 25 electrified models within its range by 2023 – two years ahead of schedule.
Most of these will take the form of PHEVs, but we know that the Mini EV is on its way and BMW is busy testing its iNext all-electric SUV. We're also due a new i3 at some point, whilst the aforementioned iX3 is pending and all-electric i4 is in the pipeline. Many of these vehicles will rely on BMW's Gen5 eDrive system, the ongoing development of which is now being shared with Jaguar Land Rover.
Set against comments by BMW Group CEO Harald Krüger calling for sales of electrified models to increase by 30 per cent each year, we can be assured of its commitment to an electric future.