BMW: “We have a Vision…” That ‘VISION’ is the ‘M Next’, a concept that will become the production successor to the i8.
If you’re old enough to have a beard that’s grown Gandalf long, you might well stroke it fondly as you recall the heady days of the late 1970s, back when BMW’s performance aspirations were spearheaded by the brand’s first-ever mid-engined supercar, the BMW M1 E26. Born in 1978 from the pen of legendary Italian designer Giugiaro, the production M1 E26 elevated BMW to a position of absolute performance superiority over its German rivals.
The car was powered by a 3.5-litre inline six, good for a then-impressive 286BHP (204kW) and 0-62mph (0-100km/h) in 5.3 seconds. But if the above profile fits your description, then you likely went from stroking that beard to tearing it out hair by painful hair when you heard in 2014 that BMW was launching a spiritual successor to the M1 E26 – the plug-in hybrid BMW i8. What sort of evil sorcery was this? An M1 successor that, with 266kW, produced not much more power than a car from 36 years ago, and at 4.4 seconds to 0-62mph (100km/h), wasn’t even that much faster?
An electric motor at each axle joins the power party; part of a three-prong attack that produces a total of 441kW
Granted, the BMW i8 was a technological powerhouse, debuting the brand’s carbonfibre chassis manufacturing capabilities, as well as acting as a flag bearer for plug-in hybrid performance. But it left plenty wondering whether BMW had burdened a masterful chassis with an advanced but insufficiently muscular powertrain in the pursuit of headline fuel-economy numbers.
Now we bring you the good news, because we’ve seen the i8’s replacement; the Vision M Next concept. The eagle-eyed among you might have already noticed that, design-wise, it riffs on the themes established by the i8. But in the power department, the two are worlds apart. The Vision M Next produces almost double the power of its i8 forebear, with a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine feeding its power to a pair of 22-inch rear wheels. An electric motor at each axle joins the power party; part of a three-prong attack that produces a total of 441kW. That’s enough, BMW says, to dispatch 0-100km/h in 3.0 seconds.
Top speed is a claimed 186MPH (300km/h) and, thanks to its on-board (but of an as-yet undisclosed size) battery pack, it will have a range of 62miles (100km) in pure EV mode.
Details remain a little thin on the ground, but we understand the M Next borrows the basis of the carbonfibre monocoque from the i8, marrying that performance-focused chassis with the best of the company’s electric and internal combustion technology. There’s even more carbonfibre employed in the body, including the side skirts and the rear diffuser surrounds, which helps keep the kerb weight down to a claimed sub-1700kg.
A concept in name only (BMW has heavily hinted that a production version is coming), the Next doubles as an effective replacement for the i8, for which BMW has confirmed there will be no direct successor. But it’s also a preview of M performance to come, and opens a window into how the brand’s performance arm will handle the rise of autonomous technology in vehicles that are, at their core, designed around a human driver.
The M Next will offer both, with a new EASE drive mode that deploys the car’s autonomous functions, with its giant electronic brain capable of handling the boring stuff, like commuting or traffic. But of course when the opportunity presents, the driver can engage BOOST mode and take full control. A third mode, labelled BOOST+, squeezes maximum power from all three power sources, but will also surely drain the battery faster that whipping the plug out of a bathtub. So it’s a worthy successor to the M1.
And it even looks the part, with a three-piece rear window louvre aping the original, and roundels taken from that 1970s’ model stamped into each rear taillight.
But perhaps the biggest nod to BMW’s halo model of yore lies not in what you can see, but in what you can’t, and that is the performance to live up to its supercar heritage.
Vision M Next follows the design ethos of BMW’s i8, but promises a hefty doubling of outputs when it arrives sometime in 2022 / Exterior may point to how the production car will look, but the interior? Not so much.
Did you know?
Our image doesn’t show it, but Vision M Next concept debuts ‘laser wire’ headlamps, which feature glass fibres coated with phosphorous to produce ultra-bright light in a compact layout. Facial recognition technology is used to unlock the car, and an augmented reality head-up display is integrated into the windscreen. BMW insists it’s all technology that’s being prepped for production.