BMW gives us a sneak peek at the technology it will release in 2021

BMW iNext teaser

BMW is in the process of developing its most high-tech model to date. Called iNext internally, this rolling showcase of automotive technology will be electric, it will drive itself in certain conditions, and it will pack state-of-the-art connectivity features. We haven’t seen it yet, it’s not scheduled to arrive in showrooms until early in the next decade, but BMW is gradually releasing morsels of information to whet our appetite.

The iNext — which could wear the name i5 when it reaches showrooms — will come with the next generation of BMW’s infotainment technology. The software will be displayed on a wide, curved touchscreen that encompasses both the infotainment system and the digital instrument cluster. The display will be oriented toward the driver, but the front passenger will still be able to interact with it. BMW explained this layout creates a visual link between the iNext and its classic models, which have historically featured driver-focused center consoles while making the interior more ergonomic.

While BMW released a photo of the screen, it reveals almost nothing about the car it’s in. However, images of a pre-production model undergoing cold-weather testing somewhere frozen and well north of the Arctic Circle reveal it will arrive as an SUV about as big as the X5. The controversially styled iNext concept gave us an approximate preview of the model, though stylists will tone down the design as it transitions into a production model.

BMW previously confirmed the model will be entirely electric, though it hasn’t published technical specifications, and it announced Level 3 autonomous technology will be able to handle driving when the right conditions are met. What remains to be seen is how BMW will offset the weight of the electric powertrain. The current members of BMW’s i sub-brand (the i3 city car and the spaceship-like i8) rely on carbon fiber to keep weight in check; the iNext could, too, or it could ditch composite materials in favor of lightweight metals for cost reasons.

The iNext — which BMW proudly calls its technology flagship — will enter production in 2021. The Munich-based company will release additional information about it over the coming months, and British magazine Autocar learned it’s tentatively scheduled to make its public debut during the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show. If that’s accurate, we expect it will reach showrooms in time for the 2022 model year.


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