Standing in a room in Munich, Germany amongst about a dozen fellow journalists from across North America, I couldn’t help but recall a feeling I would get during my time in advertising. Before I would give a presentation — anxiety. Uncertainty. The constant pondering and shadowboxing of how your idea would be received in the room. And in the case of that
room — full of auto journalists
— I couldn’t help but feel a little empathy for our welcoming German hosts. Because auto journalists are, above all else, opinionated, particular, and jaded. Me especially.
Truthfully I was expecting to be shown another shapeless, faceless electric egg when I heard “concept for an electrified vehicle to be launched in 2025.” This was not to be an electrified version of an existing platform in the way the i4 is to the 4-series. This was to be a dedicated EV platform. And that sounded … worrisome for BMW.
I wouldn’t say there was quite an instant relief in the room when the Neue Klasse concept was revealed on stage. But there was certainly a warming towards the cars' presence. “That looks pretty good
, right?” We all confirmed with one another. The more we looked, the more we agreed, the more we warmed to it.
And there was a lot to look at. The overall shape harkens back to BMWs of old. Not just the original 1962 Neue Klasse
, but its successors, like the 2002 and E30 3-Series. Walking around the car you just saw more and more of it.
The large, uninterrupted surfaces. The abundance of visibility and natural light into the cabin. The way the rear deck lid intercepts the rear window. That Hofmeister kink
C-pillar. The slanted “shark nose”. And of course, the unmistakable kidney bean grill — albeit reimagined for a solely electrified vehicle. It somehow all feels totally familiar and yet completely new at the same time.
“The design of the Neue Klasse is typically BMW and so progressive it looks like we skipped a model generation,” explains Adrian Van Hooydonk, Head of BMW Group Design.
Inside though is where things get totally futuristic and very, very “concept car”. It’s totally free of chrome, leather, and other distracting materials. Instead are bright cord materials and a flat bottom and top steering wheel. The interior design language looks like something out of The Jetsons — a kind of future-retro, post-modern motif — how people in the ‘60s imagined the future would look.
But perhaps the most striking feature is how the new BMW iDrive system is presented both in a central display and in a projection
towards the windshield at the bottom of the driver’s eye line. Drivers can move information from the central display to this “BMW Panoramic Vision” display with a gesture. The projection idea is one you almost have to admit is pretty clever. You don’t need a giant screen. You don’t need a special kind of glass for the windshield — a crack, a stone chip, doesn’t matter. Your info continues to display.
There are other nice touches as well, like how the interior mood lighting will shift from hot to cool as the temperature control is adjusted.
The Neue Klasse boasts BMW’s upcoming sixth-generation eDrive which will be BMW’s first use of an 800-volt electrical architecture (on par with the Porsche Taycan). BMW claims the new eDrive will have 30 per cent more range, 30 per cent faster charging, and 25 per cent greater efficiency.
It also sets goals to reduce C02 emissions through its construction. A new plant in Debrecen is claimed to use no fossil fuels and will incorporate a wider use of raw and secondary materials in the manufacturing process.
It’s easy to get cynical doing this gig. You see a lot of the same thing over and over. You hear a lot of big, overreaching promises. And true enough who knows how much of the “Vision” design concept will make it into a final production model. That big greenhouse with the low doors and narrow B-pillars? I’m guessing go by the black lines on the glass if you want to see what the dimensions will really be. It’s hard to imagine that
steering wheel making it to production. And those oh-so-slick embossed BMW badges? I sincerely hope
they don’t lose them, but they don’t exactly seem mass-manufactured-friendly.
Still, it’s difficult to not look at the Vision Neue Klasse design concept without a little hope for the future. Especially if this is to be BMW’s core design language moving forward. Maybe the future won’t be boring, bland, and featureless after all. Maybe it will be warm, inviting, stylish, unobtrusive, elegant, and maybe most important of all, have some real character to it.