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Byton M-Byte: connected SUV goes cold weather testing

Published: 03 April 2019

 Huge 49-inch infotainment screen returns
 Slower than a Tesla Model X though
► 'Ready for Level 4 autonomous driving'

Another car, another collection of winter testing images. This time it’s the Byton M-Byte, an ambitious, highly connected SUV we previously saw at CES – the Consumer Electronics Show, for the less techy of you. There we got a good look at the interior of the new SUV, but this time the M-Byte is in less forgiving climates.

Byton says the M-Byte has just completed its Cold Environment Test (CET) in Inner Mongolia, marking another step closer to production. The company has been testing 100 prototypes since last year, in temperatures down to -30°C.

Byton has confirmed that the new car should be coming in autumn 2019 to showrooms in Beijing, China and the US - and it should appear in Central Europe and the UK a little after that.

The new interior

At CES, Byton revealed an all-new interior for the M-Byte, and it's a little different to the concept we first saw. Byton engineers have kept the huge swathe of 49-inch screen we saw on the concept, but look closer and there are a few changes compared to last year’s cabin.

There’s still a 7-inch tablet for the driver on the steering wheel, but now it’s been pushed towards the bottom of the wheel to make space for an airbag. What’s more, there’s another touch panel between the driver and the passengers, too – because after some feedback from last year Byton realised the passengers had limited control of the cinema-like screen in front of them.  

There are more buttons, and while some are legally required, Byton has added others as it feels they’re overall easier and quicker to use.

Gestures are present too, and although we didn’t get to see them in action, Byton tells us that they’ll use rather familiar movements; think one- and two-finger swipes for different things – like a virtual touchpad.

Yes, you may well seen Byton drivers doing a silent disco in the fast lane of the M4 in years to come...

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Some of the changes have taken place under the surface too, with the new UI featuring more Amazon Alexa integration than before. We’re expecting to see Byton products emerge as a test case for the benefits for Alexa in cars; Amazon had an M-Byte on its own stand at this year’s CES show.

Finally, step back from the dashboard, and Byton has kept the front seats’ ability to turn in slightly - thereby adding a more community-based feel when the car is in autonomous mode.

Isn’t that distracting?

Byton maintains that the huge 49-inch touchscreen at the heart of the car shouldn’t be a distraction, as it’s lower and inset compared to a normal infotainment system. Rather than sitting away from the driver’s eyeline, Byton says its screen sits just below the road for the driver, so looking up at the road and directly down actually reduces its distraction.

Byton CES

The new car will be built in Nanjing, China and Byton says the factory is nearly completed – though that’s not stopped the building and testing of around 100 prototypes so far.

Price and competition?

Just like the Audi e-Tron, the M-Byte is aimed at all the growth areas of the car market; China, SUVs and EVs. But unlike the e-Tron, Byton is targeting a more accessible price, and believes it can generate the scale to draw comparisons to the Tesla Model 3.

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By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's online editor and racing-sim enthusiast