BMW’s first saloon entry into its i line-up has been previewed in concept form and will arrive at the beginning of the next decade
The next car to enter BMW’s i line-up has been revealed in concept form at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Called the i Vision Dynamics concept, it’s a four-door gran coupe envisaged to sit between the i3and i8 and previews an upcoming i5 entry into the firm’s all-electric range for 2020.
It’s one of 12 all-electric cars BMW is planning to release by 2025. According to BMW, the concept boasts an all-electric range of 373 miles, with a top speed over 120mph and a 0-62mph time of four seconds.
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The i Vision Dynamics cuts a slightly different character compared to BMW’s current i offerings, and looks quite different to the car teased by BMW in the days leading up to the show. Some styling cues are taken from the iNEXT concept car revealed last year, such as the large, vertical kidney grille outlines, LED strip headlights and horizontal, flared taillights.
Elsewhere, the concept boasts a full-length panoramic glasshouse running from windscreen to rear window, plus smooth, one piece surfaces.
Adrian van Hooydonk, Senior Vice President BMW Group Design, said: “BMW i Vision Dynamics is combining electric mobility with the core values of BMW: dynamism and elegance. We are therefore demonstrating how the product range and the design language of BMW i can be evolved further into other concepts.
Asked when the production model will launch – the i5 – head of BMW i division Robert Irlinger told Auto Express: “As soon as we have all our modular systems working, so something around 2020. We are working on a very competitive and innovative project; we are trying to find the right design for the car.
“It will sit between the i3 and the i8 – we [i Division] are at the core of the brand. With our new modular systems, the next level of out electric powertrains, we are able to bring an electrified powertrains to all of our vehicles.
“This car is not just for the i brand, it is for the whole BMW group.”
Irlinger told us at the show that the i5 will use lithium-ion battery cells, but it has not yet been decided if the car will utilise lightweight carbon core construction like the i3 and i8.
In terms of design, the concept itself is fairly close to the mark, according to the i division boss.
“It’s a concept car but we have a good tradition at BMW I that the concept car and the later production car look the same. Yes, there will be some changes but this car [Vision Dynamics concept] is not far away.”
Our exclusive preview images show the i5 could instead still take its design cues from 2016’s Vision Next 100 Concept, which was revealed as part of BMW’s centenary celebrations. It’s expected the saloon will go head-to-head with Tesla’s forthcoming Model 3, sitting somewhere between BMW’s 3 Series and 5 Series in terms of size, and be fully battery powered. However, early designs are understood to have included the possibility of hydrogen fuel-cell power for the electric motors, too.
BMW has been talking about the new model as iNext, but we understand the i5 badge will position the car as the brand’s latest standard bearer for new tech, just as the i3 and i8 have done. Speaking exclusively to Auto Express last year, BMW’s member of the board responsible for sales and marketing, Ian Robertson, said: “Having recently had the final design review, you can assume that it’s a bigger car rather than a smaller one, and you can assume that the packaging for the next generation of batteries has to be accommodated in such a way that gives the car a certain proportion.
“One thing we’ll see is that – as with most BMWs – you’ll know it’s one of our cars without seeing the badge. Proportionally it has certain design icons – the grille, light treatment and so on.
“With the i products, we’ve established a few new icons, so we’re bringing these forward. You’ll see this as an i product from BMW, without seeing that it’s the iNext.
“That’s always a telling sign for me in design reviews – that we can see that it’s a BMW. The proportions, the short overhangs are BMW positionings; you’ll see that in the iNext.” The i5 is expected to bring a new approach to interior design and space, thanks to new battery tech. As Robertson explained: “I think the iNext phase will have much stronger volume proportions behind it. If the next generation of batteries are smaller, thinner and with no wet and sticky stuff inside them – they’re solid state – then they can be packaged much easier.”
It’s expected that the i5 will launch with level-three autonomous technology, so the vehicle is in full control of all functions with the driver able to take over when needed. Eventually the i5 will be capable of level four and five autonomous driving, where occupants have hardly any input.
BMW’s joint purchase of mapping company Here with Daimler and Volkswagen is playing a key part in that. And it’s working with companies such as computing giant Intel and Mobileye, one of the world leaders in artificial intelligence.
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“We’re going to see what we believe to be the first full autonomous capability,” said Robertson. “We’ve assembled quite a powerful group, so putting these big companies together with this company we own [Here] is giving us a powerful move down the autonomous road.”
However, Robertson is very open about the technology not being ready yet. “There are a lot of people talking about autonomousdriving at the moment,” he said, “but first of all the technology isn’t robust enough. It’s not good enough to say it will be better for most of the time – it needs to be better all of the time.”
BMW put 40 autonomous 7 Series limousines on the road in the second half of this year. The technology used in the test fleet will then be developed and fine-tuned, eventually forming the basis for the tech fitted in the i5. “Of course, along the way we’ll continue to develop the tech and bring it in to existing cars,” Robertson added. “But the big step will be with iNext.”
By the time the i5 arrives, BMW will have established itself as one of the world’s major players in the electric car market. As well as its current i3 and i8 models, BMW has the biggest range of plug-in hybrid vehicles currently available. The German brand has already sold over 100,000 electrified cars worldwide, with Robertson targeting another 100,000 sales in 2017. The introduction of the new 5 Series plug-in hybrid is likely to be a big hit for fleet customers.
By the time the i5 arrives in 2020, those numbers will have grown substantially, along with expectations. And the new model will be expected to spearhead new growth of fully electric vehicles, as well as leading the charge of BMW’s new breed of autonomous cars.