Feast your eyes on the BMW Vision Neue Klasse. It’s a four-door sedan concept that previews, well, everything that BMW has coming for us in the next few years.
BMW says that its design is a pared-back simplification of the essentials we’re accustomed to from BMW design, but to us it looks like a reinvention of the brand’s design language in its entirety with a touch of retro flare thrown in via the silhouette. For those keeping track of BMW’s latest concept vehicles, you’ll also see a whole lot of the i Vision Dee in the Neue Klasse. In fact, it looks more like an evolution of that vehicle than anything else.
Drilling down into some of the details, the Neue Klasse features a new kidney grille that is all light and no actual grille. Instead of the vertical orientation we’re quickly growing accustomed to in other BMW models, though, this one stretches across the face horizontally, and it integrates all of the driver assist sensors to keep the front end looking cleaner. As you approach the Neue Klasse, it plays a three-dimensional lighting effect across the grille that’s meant to act as communication to its driver. Then, when you get to the door, E Ink elements in the lower side windows highlight where you should place your hand to open the door. Place your hand in the right spot, and the doors pop open all by themselves. The taillight lighting is just as exotic, as BMW says it consists of 3D-printed light elements that are extended across several layers to create the perception of depth looking into them.
As for the references to BMWs of yore, designers tell us that it chose to highlight a steeply forward-slanting shark nose front-end, powerful wheel arches and the retracted greenhouse. All that said, its super simplistic slab-sided body and general design language looks nothing like the BMW models on the road today. BMW won’t say so explicitly, but considering the size of the Neue Klasse, we have a feeling this design is previewing a future electric 3 Series product.
BMW threw down a bunch of numbers in the EV space for how the incoming Neue Klasse platform and array of EVs will be improved over its current crop of EVs out there. In reference to the current i4, BMW says newly-developed battery cells (round instead of prismatic) will have a 20% higher energy density than today. The charging speed of Neue Klasse EVs will be 30% faster, and the overall vehicle driving efficiency – thanks to the latest generation of BMW’s electric motors, a new heat pump and optimized cooling – will increase by up to 25%. That number jumps to 40% in winter versus today, mostly thanks to the heat pump. In all, BMW believes this will amount to an approximate 30% range increase to a vehicle like the BMW i4. The best-rated i4 right now for range is the eDrive40 at 307 miles per EPA testing. With this new tech, that model would theoretically be good for about 400 miles of driving.
That number still doesn’t knock off the Lucids of the world, but it’s remarkably good for a vehicle in that size and price category. The charging improvement is another boon, as the current max rate of 200 kW would increase to 260 kW, making it faster than Tesla’s vehicles and nearing the charge speed of more expensive models like the Porsche Taycan and Audi E-Tron GT.
The interior of this Neue Klasse is bound to be both the most loved and the most controversial element. For starters, yes, that is yellow-ish corduroy upholstery on the seats – BMW tells us it’s considering using more non-leather materials in future interiors. All of the mustard-like fabric is broken up with an off-white color used on the floor, center console, doors and elsewhere. It very much feels like a tastefully-designed living room inside the Neue Klasse, and the sheer amount of glass with a low beltline emphasizes the amount of light that filters into the cabin. There’s no doubting how cool and beautiful it all looks, but the tech on display is arguably the real star of the show.
Here, we see the next generation of BMW iDrive, a more formed version of the BMW Panoramic Vision display and the new iDrive “controller.” Starting with the screen that now features a new shape and sits alone in what would be the center stack area (though when asked, BMW said it’s still considering keeping the volume knob around), it officially ditches the iDrive rotary knob. It’s all touchscreen now, and it features new software that re-thinks the structure and operation of iDrive how we know it today. Integrated with the main display is the fancy, full-width Panoramic Vision. BMW says it will be available on Neue Klasse vehicles, and it’s going to project the display across the entire lower portion of the windshield such that it’s both in the driver’s and passenger’s line of sight. BMW designers assured us it will work with polarized sunglasses, unlike many head-up displays currently in production. What you’ll see on the Panoramic Vision will generally be an extension of the touch display. Plus, you’ll be able to control via a new touch controller on the right spoke of the steering wheel or via the central touchscreen if you prefer. A demonstration showed that you can project navigation directions, media controls and more to the Panoramic Display, and it sure does look nifty when you’re in the car. We’ll be very intrigued to try out a production version of the new tech.
You’ll be able to see the Neue Klasse at the Munich Motor Show if you happen to be in Germany, but more importantly, you should expect to see many of its features, tech and design make it into future BMW EVs. That future isn’t very far away either, as BMW says we should start to see the Neue Klasse hit the road in 2025.