BMW needs you to get excited about Vision M Next, a flashy concept making its debut in Munich. Just as early Tesla fanatics bought Roadsters and paved the way for more volume-focused versions of that brand’s technology, interest garnered by a gullwing-doored, shockingly quick sports car with Thrilling Orange accents could make the cutting-edge tech featured in the humbler iNext concept more palatable.
Turning the future of the car into something desirable and sexy is important for automakers, including BMW. So the Vision M Next takes things a step or three farther than the brand’s existing green halo, the i8. BMW says the iNext and Vision M Next exemplify its two foundational themes: Ease (the car will drive for you) and Boost (driving fun).
Not many autonomous concepts look like the M Next does, so we’ll start with what you really want to know. The Vision M Next produces 600 horsepower, but it’s not from a twin-turbo V-8, as in the mighty new 2020 M8 (the Competition model makes 617 hp). Instead, the futuristic concept’s 600 horses come from its extended-range plug-in-hybrid system, which includes a gas-powered four-cylinder engine yet has an estimated 62-mile EV range before the engine kicks in and continues the journey outside a zero-emissions zone such as central London. Acceleration to 62 mph is said to happen in just 3.0 seconds, like the automaker’s M8 estimate. With this car likely to stay in the conceptual realm for the near term, we’ll have to take BMW at its its word on that time, as well as the theoretical 186-mph top speed. BMW further says that, thanks to its “Power PHEV” powertrain, the M Next can switch from electric all-wheel drive to rear-wheel drive.
Tons of design details make the Vision M Next what it is, but we’ll draw your attention to two highlights. First, the brand’s Hofmeister kink appears in the sculpted body panels itself instead of the windows like other models. Also, the concept pays homage to the classic M1 in the form of the three-piece louvers made of glass, as well as side vents just below them on the sides of the car). Although we’re not yet sold about the concept’s headlight-to-grille visual space ratio, the Laser Wire lighting tech making those slim headlights possible sounds intriguing; glass fibers are coated with phosphorous in the production process.
You’ve heard of the 2020 Hyundai Sonata and other cars allowing entry with just a phone? Well this BMW concept will let you in with facial recognition. Also, there’s a curved-glass display and an augmented-reality head-up display inside to make sure all the info you need is readily available, including the driver’s heart rate and the car’s energy management. One future-tech advance we appreciate is how BMW says the car’s info displays can adapt what they show based on the car’s speed. So if you’re moving increasingly fast, info will focus on driving-related data and shift to the driver’s line of sight.
A sporty two-door with design details that subtly nod to the past (M1) while looking to the future (autonomous driving tech) sounds good to us. If we’re honest, most of us—yes, even enthusiasts— occasionally would rather let the car take over, say in bumper-to-bumper traffic with no end in sight. If a production car could do what BMW says the Vision M Next can do on command, transform “into a living space on four wheels” after you return from a romp on a favorite winding road, we’d be interested. But turning such futuristic concepts into production realities in cars consumers are actually willing to buy can be a challenge. Of course, 600 horsepower is a heck of a selling point.