BMW iNext electric SUV: what you need to know

Published: 04 August 2020

► Production BMW iX5 out in 2021
► Autonomous, electric, connected
► Will follow EV Mini and iX3 

Based on the concept of the same name, the iNext is the largest  – and most important – electric vehicle we've seen from BMW so far, Due to be released next year, the iNext has been nicknamed 'The Enabler' in Munich, as it's the first e-model that sits on a new platform also destined for the electric i7-Series and the i5.

Keep reading for more information on what's it going to cost, what will it look like, as well as range or performance specs. 

Our guide to electric and hybrid BMW cars

What will it look like?

Our spy photographers have snapped fresh pictures of an iNext prototype testing, though it looks much closer to production. Both the front and rear lights look more like the finished iNext concept, and it's also poossible to see the grill of the car through the camo. Look at the pictures above, and you'll see a closed assembly, simliar to that in the i4 and iX3. The treatment around the grille and headlights look suprisingly close to the concept car. 

Along the side of the car, it's also possible to see the finished window line, as well as the 21-inch Pirellis the final car will roll on.

Size-wise, expect a 5-Series on stilts; that's why it could be called the iX5 – Munich hasn't finalised a name for the electric SUV just yet.

The picture above also shows an iNext compared to its ICE sibling, which is helpfully loaded on the trailer above the iX5. The electric SUV looks to be slightly longer than its combustion counterpart, with an extended wheelbase. That’s probably a side effect of engineers squeezing as many battery cells between the axles as possible, but it also means the occupants will enjoy more legroom. Factor in the absence of a transmission tunnel, and cabin space should be positively cavernous compared to the regular X5. 

And the interior? 

Expect a touchscreen-heavy cabin, with a Mercedes-Benz style double infotainment screen. Our snappers have taken pictures of a very rough interior of the new iNext, and the signs of a tech-infused set up are already evident. Interestingly, drivers will also throw around the iNext with a two-spoke steering wheel – though it's not clear if this will be a feature of all BMW's electric models. 

The iNext concept

The iX5 will be based on the iNext concept car: its technology, design and packaging is a showcase for the company’s future plans, particularly in terms of electrification, connectivity and autonomous driving.

Like the BMW Vision Dynamics concept (which previews the upcoming i4) and the more recent iX3, the iNext is dominated by a tall, conjoined-kidney grille, which looks set to be a signature of BMW’s electric range.

The windscreen flows unbroken into a panoramic glass roof, designed to fill the interior with as much light as possible.

It’s a very big car, with proportions described by BMW as being between the X5 and X6, but it looks even bigger in the metal. There’s no B-pillar, the central strength formed by an overlap between the front and rear doors. The doors themselves are enormous, the rears being reverse-hinged coach doors, and there are no conventional handles, replaced by gesture sensors.

Likewise there are no door mirrors, replaced by cameras in true concept car style.

Being a concept car, the iNext also sits on enormous 24-inch rims. Don’t expect those to necessarily make it to production, as witnessed by our spy photos above…

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Manual and autonomous driving modes

The iNext previews both autonomous and connective tech, and the interior can change configuration according to whether it’s in autonomous or manual control modes.

BMW Vision iNext pedals

The concept features Boost mode for old-fashioned human-controlled driving and Ease mode for autonomous travel. In Ease mode the steering wheel retracts slightly and the pedals become flush with the floor. In Boost mode, BMW claims the iNext will still live up to its ‘ultimate driving machine’ strapline, thanks to a low centre of gravity and strong acceleration, although it’s declined to announce projected performance figures.

BMW iNext interior

While the exterior design is domineering, the interior’s clean, uncluttered layout is composed of simple lines and focuses on innovative use of materials and surfaces. BMW design director Adrian van Hooydonk says the interior ‘is not inspired by car design at all – more architecture and boutique hotels.’

Conventional switchgear has been avoided, with many of the car’s primary functions operated by voice control and, intriguingly, touch-sensitive surfaces as opposed to touchscreens. The wooden centre console is a case in point, and in Ease mode its entire surface can act like one large trackpad.

BMW Vision iNext cloth

Similarly, the rear seat – which is an asymmetrical bench to encourage occupants to turn towards one another while in autonomous mode – is made from tactile, coarse-cut Jacquard cloth, and it too has touch-controlled elements. Trace your fingers across certain sections and you can skip music tracks, raise and lower the volume and execute various other commands, while illuminated light paths trace the path of your fingers. Very sci-fi.

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