THE BMW Vision Next 100 concept revealed at the marque’s 100th birthday bash in Munich yesterday is only the first in a series.
Still to come are concepts from the BMW Group’s pair of British brands, Mini and Rolls-Royce. These will be revealed in London in June. BMW’s Motorrad motorcycle division gets its turn in Los Angeles in October.
“No-one can say what the next 100 years will be like,” BMW chairman Harald Kruger told media gathered in Munich for the big day. But the company does have some idea of what’s coming in the not-so-distant future, he added.
The Vision Next 100 doesn’t have a tailpipe, which presumably points to BMW’s faith in electric propulsion. Presumably, because execs refused say how the concept might be powered.
Instead, they preferred to swing the focus to tech bling. The Vision Next 100 has fully enclosed wheels, helping the low, wide four-seater achieve a claimed Cd figure of 0.18. Stretchy skin around the wheelarches permits the front wheels to swivel for steering.
While there’s a trad kidney grille, it doesn’t flow air to a radiator. BMW design chief Adrian van Hooydonk said he believed the future of the brand’s visual signature was as a site for the sensors required for autonomous driving.
Naturally, the Vision Next 100 is the kind of car that can drive itself. BMW has come up with the label ‘Ease’ for this mode. The vehicle’s foldaway steering yoke retracts into the dash, and the driver can take a break. This is typical advanced autonomous concept car stuff.
It’s the Vision Next 100’s ‘Boost’ mode that shows how BMW believes it could retain its reputation for driving pleasure in the age of the autonomous car. The concept’s entire windscreen is a kind of gigantic head-up display. BMW’s vision is that this could be used to show the driver the best line around a corner, as well as warning of road hazards.
“Our aim is to turn every driver into a better driver,” van Hooydonk said. “We will give the driver an intelligent co-pilot.”
If BMW can make it work as well as it did in the slick computer-generated animation it showed in Munich, which is a big if, the Bavarians could be the first to create an autonomous car for enthusiastic drivers. Chairman Kruger said he saw allowing drivers to drive when they want as being a BMW point of difference in future.
But it seems the BMW boss isn’t convinced that internal combustion has the same life expectancy as the steering wheel. “There is no alternative to e-mobility,” Kruger told a journalist who asked if BMW was satisfied with sales of the i3 electric car. “E-mobility is a marathon, not a sprint.”