BMW Has Shown Us The Future Of Electric-Powered M-Cars By Heavily Referencing The Past
BMW unveils a new mid-engined hybrid concept car from its M-division
The BMW Vision M Next, a concept car revealed today at BMW’s own #NEXTGen event, gives us a hint at what future M-cars might look like and previews the sort of powertrains they will have.
The new concept is a plug-in hybrid with a mid-mounted turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine as well as electric motors to power both axles. The combined power output of the motors is 591bhp, which allows for a top speed of 186mph and a 0-62mph time of 3 seconds. Driven in purely electric mode, the Vision M Next has a 62-mile range.
As well as having a variety of propulsion methods, the Vision M Next can be driven as an all-wheel-drive car, or just rear-wheel drive. Or not driven at all, because despite this being an M-car concept and having lots of driver-focussed elements, there is an autonomous mode.
There are three ‘driving’ modes in total: the fully autonomous EASE, BOOST for when you want to take over, and BOOST+ which gives you an additional but temporary hike in power.
There are clear similarities with the way the new concept looks and BMW’s concept car-like production hybrid, the i8. Yet, the most distinctive thing about the Vision M Next is not its low and sleek sports car lines or its big 20-inch front and 21-inch rear wheels. No, it’s the big blocks of vivid orange that cut into the bodywork at right angles.
The matte orange (officially called Thrilling Orange) adds a retro flair to the incredibly modern exterior as it’s a very similar shade to the nose and tail of BMW’s Turbo of 1971 – a concept car that previewed the mid-engined M1 supercar.
The pastiche continues with the horizontal vent of the Vision M Next’s rear flank is almost directly taken from BMW’s M1. While the louvered rear deck and illuminated BMW roundels at the rear corners of the back-end are further nods to the firm’s ’70s supercar.
Two further typical BMW styling elements have been integrated into Vision M Next’s exterior. There’s the two kidney grilles at the front – this time blanked with laser-etched and illuminated panels – and the Hofmeister kink. Rather than being part of the window line, as is traditional, the trademark kink makes up part of the sculpted side of the car.
What are brand new, and unlike any BMW, are the headlights. As well as new, ultra-thin lights made from glass fibres coated with phosphorous, the twin units are stacked on top of each other. Not placed side-by-side, which has been the way on many BMWs since the mid-’60s.
There’s a host of technology in this concept car, including facial recognition and an augmented reality head-up display. The main focus has been to use this technology to remove any distractions from the driver. The three-tiered driver display, which is made up from screens on the wheel, a see-through dial panel and the head-up display, changes what information is projects depending on the speed the car is travelling. The quicker you go, only the essential elements are shown.
A fully autonomous mode might not seem like the path we’d expect, or even want, for BMW’s M-division to go down. However, the strong emphasis on driver involvement that the Vision M Next portrays, plus the celebration of some of BMW’s past hits, should give us some comfort that future M-cars will have some appeal to real enthusiasts.