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BMW Vision New Class: Preview of the upcoming electric 3 Series

It is supposed to be nothing less than the “reinvention of BMW”: The German carmaker has presented the BMW Vision Neue Klasse concept in the run-up to the IAA Mobility in Munich to showcase the design language for the EVs based on the new platform.

In fact, the BMW Vision Neue Klasse joins the appearance of past concept vehicles BMW i Vision Circular (IAA 2021) and BMW i Vision Dee (CES 2023). There is no sign of the large, chrome-rimmed BMW kidney of the current 4 Series/i4, iX or even the illuminated kidney of the current 7 Series generation/i7 in any of the concept cars. Instead, the front is characterised by a low BMW kidney across the entire width of the vehicle – even the LED headlights are inconspicuously integrated into the BMW kidney, which is no longer framed.

The BMW i Vision Dee presented in January was already seen as the first preview of the new class. Since the BMW Vision New Class now again uses the same design language inside and out, the Munich-based company can no longer claim to want to test the public’s reactions to the design with the new IAA design concept – the look is not exactly completely new. However, fans of BMW’s current design language shouldn’t get their hopes up too high that the New Class models will end up looking more conventional. Only last week, BMW CEO Oliver Zipse declared in the conference call on the latest quarterly figures that the BMW Vision Neue Klasse is “close to series production and will soon be on the road”.

So let’s take a look at the concept car: At the front, apart from the aforementioned reinvention of the BMW kidney including LED headlights, the reduced and almost calm design stands out. In future, BMW will focus on large, smooth surfaces and no longer on the interplay of concave and convex shapes with light edges and rather aggressively styled air intakes or eye-catching chrome elements as in the i7. Everything that is still there is kept very simple.

The same applies to the side view and the rear: the shapes are incomparably simpler and must therefore be designed all the more effectively. The mixture of straight lines and inevitably round elements such as the wheel arches looks coherent in the photos. As at the front with the BMW kidney, a classic BMW design element, the so-called “Hofmeister kink” at the rear side window, is also reinterpreted in the side view. At the rear, the designers have taken up the theme from the front: The rear lights extend across the entire width of the vehicle, similar to the BMW kidney.

While one can well imagine – also in view of BMW’s history with the i3 and i8 – that the body will really come onto the market as an electric 3 Series Sedan in a fairly similar form, the interior still looks much closer to a concept than to series production: four futuristically designed individual seats, a free-floating centre console and a steering wheel that was probably designed for a concept vehicle rather than the EuroNCAP crash test.

With the CES concept from January, BMW did indeed show that it is working on a new type of operation and that digitization will increasingly leave its mark on the interior. But the fact that BMW, which still relies heavily on buttons and rotary pushbuttons in the cockpit, will only have a gear selector in the center console in the future and everything else will run via the free-floating touchscreen would be a sharp break from the current models. At least the multifunction buttons on the steering wheel will remain, but much will be controlled by voice via the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. Even the exterior mirror cameras don’t seem to have their own monitors. It’s really kept to a minimum.

There’s also no longer a dedicated cockpit display for the driver, nor is there a speedometer display in the central touchscreen like Tesla’s. Instead, BMW Panoramic Vision is being introduced in the New Class: The important information is projected onto the lower end of the windshield in the style of a head-up display – “at a height ideally matched to the driver’s visual axis and for the first time across the entire width of the windshield,” according to BMW.

Faster charging, further range

In terms of powertrains, the changeover to the sixth generation of electric drives is imminent. BMW has largely confirmed the information it already has: It will use advanced, separately excited synchronous motors that do not require rare earths. The battery will change from prismatic cells to round cells, which will have a 20 per cent higher energy density, according to the press release. What BMW doesn’t specify there: They are 46-millimetre-diameter cells that are 95 millimetres tall in the sedans and 120 millimetres tall in the SUVs. Suppliers are CATL, EVE Energy and AEC.

What’s more, charging speed is said to increase “by up to 30 per cent” (thanks to the switch from 400 to 800 volts, more than 200 kW of charging power becomes possible. So +30 per cent would be 260 kW), and the range is also expected to increase by 30 per cent. “The overall vehicle efficiency will be increased by up to 25 per cent through the sum of all measures,” BMW said.

In addition, production at the new plant in Debrecen will completely eliminate fossil fuels and increase the use of CO2-reduced raw materials and recycled secondary materials. The vehicle’s energy efficiency, with optimized weight, air and rolling resistance, and thermal management, is intended to make the use phase cleaner. BMW presented the idea of a circular economy at the IAA two years ago with the BMW i Vision Circular concept. All these topics are now to come together in the current study.

“The BMW Vision New Class bundles our innovative strength in the central areas of electrification, digitalization and circularity,” says Oliver Zipse. “In this way, we are two steps ahead of the future: with the New Class, we will bring mobility for the next decade to the road as early as 2025 – and lead BMW into a new era.”

“30 per cent more range, 30 per cent faster charging, 25 per cent more efficiency – with the New Class, we are leaping far ahead technologically and taking EfficientDynamics to a new dimension,” adds Board Member for Development Frank Weber. With the New Class, we have launched the biggest investment in the company’s history. We are not just writing the next chapter of BMW, but a new book. That’s why it’s clear that the New Class will permeate all model generations.”

With reporting by Sebastian Schaal, Germany.

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