“We’re not afraid of change,” BMW stated at its future-tech focused #NEXTGen event in Munich this week. And that’s especially clear with the Vision M Next concept, a striking plug-in hybrid that’s as quick as an M8 yet can go around 60 miles on EV power alone. You’ve seen the photos and learned about the concept, but keep reading to learn about what the new BMW is like in person plus what angle Adrian van Hooydonk, senior vice president of BMW Group Design, especially likes.
Actually You’re Right, BMW
More than just text in a press release, the Vision M Next’s dual-opening grille is faithful to the brand but really does have a sense of depth to it. Behind the silver grille trim you’d expect and the laser-etched pattern you might not, Thrilling Orange paint brightens up the trim behind the silver-accented grille. The effect powerfully emphasizes the latest evolution of a key BMW design element.
About those headlights…
In person, I’m still not a fan of the headlights. I don’t mind that the headlights aren’t placed side-by-side the grille—as on almost every production BMW sold today except maybe one—but I’m not a fan of how small the headlights appear compared to the enormous dual-opening grille. If you see the Vision M Next at an auto show, judge it for yourself.
Could you tell from the photos that the black on the lower side skirts is composed of recycled carbon fiber? Besides being a cool idea, the textured appearance this provides is subtle and effective.
The rear wheels are one inch larger than the 21-inch fronts, and although it’s possible that staggered look had some subconscious effect on my appreciation of the BMW concept’s design, the more obvious orange accents on the rear wheels captivated me. Even though I’m still not sold on the “silk-matt” Cast Silver paint over Thrilling Orange accents, I like the idea of painting the rear wheels as a way to draw attention to the car’s performance (BMW says the car can use rear-wheel drive or an EV-based all-wheel drive).
Van Hooydonk says that “[designers’] job as I see it is to have more ideas than the company can build,” a comment that could apply equally to specific details as well as the car as a whole.
Just Enough Heritage
The Vision M Next nods to BMW’s supercar past with the three-piece glass louvres. I found the lower rear diffusers to be far too blocky and aggressive, but then again this is a concept car, and the rest of the rear design makes up for it.
Also, take another look at our gallery of BMW photos to see the other detail fans may appreciate: the 3D-effect taillights that feature BMW roundels from the M1 and Turbo.
Good Point, Adrian
Whether the Vision M Next previews an i8-successor that’s already in the works or is simply meant to attract future-looking enthusiasts to the brand, van Hooydonk suggests the concept may have already done its job.
“Here, our job was to make people dream,” he says about the concept. Oh, one of his favorite angles of the car? It’s the rear three-quarter view. From that angle, you can see the M1-inspired rear, plus the reinvented Hofmeister kink incorporated into the sculpted side panels.
So, What About Tesla?
Van Hooydonk didn’t explicitly reference the industry-shifting electric-car brand, but he did defend the Vision M Next’s plug-in powertrain as one logical path to the future of the sports car. One leading idea at the #NEXTGen event was the way autonomous and sports-car driving can live in the same electrified world. As the automotive industry figures out which powertrain technologies will emerge on top in the face of tightening regulations, BMW arguably has more flexibility than Tesla, which makes the best-selling luxury car in the U.S. (the Model 3). BMW can produce a one-off 5-Series-based EV with acceleration in the same league as the Tesla Model S P100D while also preparing a successor to its plug-in hybrid sports car. Even though most automakers remain years behind Tesla in popularizing electrification, this powertrain flexibility could be an advantage in the short term, before EVs continue to add range like the Model S just did.
As for the Vision M Next, it’s easy to appreciate its design in person. Although there are a couple things this humble author and not-designer might change, the design represents BMW’s desire to make an electrified vehicle seem sexy, a goal I can definitely stand behind.
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