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BMW Vision M Next concept: a glimpse of the next i8

Published: 25 June 2019

► Finally evealed 
► Precursor to a new i8
► 597bhp

You’re looking at the BMW Vision M Next, revealed today at BMW Welt, and our first hint at a replacement for the i8 supercar. Munich teased the next-gen concept with some overly abstract pictures a few weeks ago, but now we’ve got our hands on proper images – and it’s a bold new step for the brand. 

What is it? 

BMW says this is the counterpart to the rather less attractive iNext concept, and explores the future of performance cars according to BMW – that’s code for the next i8. ‘The BMW Vision M provides a glimpse into the future of electric driving,’ said Adrian van Hooydonk, BMW’s senior vice president of design. ‘The BMW Vision M Next demonstrates how state-of-the-art can also make the experience of driving yourself purer and more emotionally engaging.’

The concept focuses around two themes; ‘ease’ which is essentially an autonomous mode, and ‘boost,’ which offers a more manual, hands-on driving experience. 

A hybrid, not an EV 

We’ll park those stunning looks to one side for a moment, because it’s worth outlining the powertrain behind this new concept. Like the current i8, the Vision M Next uses a hybrid powertrain, but the concept uses a four-cylinder turbo rather than the triple-cylinder unit  in the current car. That brings total power up to 592bhp (compared to 369bhp in the current i8) and 0-62mph in just three seconds. Top speed is 186mph, there’s an EV range of 62 miles and there’s also a Boost+ button that should deliver extra power – though BMW doesn’t say exactly how much – or what the split between electric and petrol power is. 

In order to balance the dynamic performance with hybrid trickery, a lot of thought has gone into how the hybrid system puts down its power.  In hybrid mode, the Vision M Next’s Power PHEV system combines rear-wheel drive from the petrol engine with electric power on the front axle, but drift merchants will be pleased to know a more tail happy, purer rear-wheel drive mode is also available – and that can use hybrid, or petrol mode, too.

And now the looks

So what about the M Next’s actual design? Take a classic M1 Procar, current i8, a few highlighters and a geometry kit, mix them together and you’re basically there. It’s clear from the pictures released today that the M Vision uses the same styling cues as BMW’s recent iNext concept, but it merges it with some of the firm’s best looking designs. 

Walk around the concept, and there’s strong hints of i8 – particularly in those wide front grilles, huge bonnet vent and squat wedge-like stance. BMW has stacked the front lights rather than placing them next to each other, so the light signature of this M car looks unlike anything else from Munich’s design studios recently – and that’s not a bad thing. 

Move to the side and you’ll find flying buttresses, a Hofmesiter kink and a air-intake. Gullwing doors return from the i8, and they sit above recycled carbonfibre skirts. 

And round the back, the Vision M Concept merges lines of the  iNext concept with stylings from the Lamborghini-built M1 Procar – just look at that slatted rear window and double-badges in the rear-light clusters! Underneath also there’s room for a huge diffuser made of recycled carbonfibre. 

And the interior?

Well, it’s as wacky as you’d expect and about as far from production as the concept’s oven-door-like glass grille. Regardless, BMW says it’s moulded on the driver with all information collected in a Boost Pod, which is a mixture of HUD, steering wheel and translucent cockpit dials. 

So what do we know about the i8? 

In this month’s July issue of CAR, our European editor Georg Kacher outlined BMW’s plans for its once innovative, but now isolated i models. A less radical i3 is coming in 2022, and should be loosely based on the next X1, with hydrogen or electric power on offer.

Faster and more interesting is the next i8 coming in the same year. That’ll be shorter, lighter and faster, thanks in part to an uprated electric motor and a new four-cylinder petrol engine – just like the one in this concept. Sources suggest a total power figure of around 540bhp, but we could get closer to the 592bhp figure seen in this concept. Either way, the future of the i8 looks bright – and that’s not just because of this concept’s Thrilling Orange highlights.

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's online editor and racing-sim enthusiast