BMW, the company that brought us the i8 performance coupe and the i3 hatchback, has revealed the next chapter in its clean-yet-quick future, the Vision M Next.
Revealed as part of BMW’s NextGen conference in Munich, the Vision M is a 441kW gullwing stunner that deliberately invokes design references to both the current carbon-hulled i8 and to BMW's legendary M1 from the late 1970s.
It also offers a glimpse into a laser-led future, debuting Laser Wire lighting technology which uses glass fibres coated with phosphorous, which can then be used to make much more intricate head and tail light graphics.
Recycled carbon fibre is used for the side skirts, while the M1 and the BMW Turbo are celebrated in the rear Laser Light signature.
The Vision M uses a four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine in conjunction with an electric motor which BMW claims will sling the coupe to 100km/h in three second flat and onto a top speed of 300km/h. The petrol engine - a step up from the three-cylinder 1.5-litre turbocharged unit in the i8 - sends its drive to the 22-inch rear wheels, while the electric motor contributes power to both axles.
The front wheels are 21 inches in diameter. As well, the Vision M can drive for 100km on electricity alone, making it a sports car that would also be suitable for use in city centres if zero-emission zones were enforced.
The gullwing doors can unlock via facial recognition and are opened via buttons instead of handles. A so-called Boost Pod brings together all the control options and information across three distinct visual tiers in the driver’s direct field of view.
The first plane is formed by the cut-down steering wheel that wears two small displays. Following this in the driver’s line of sight is what BMW calls a Curved Glass Display, which uses a transparent surface that stretches around the steering wheel like a visor.
The full-surface Augmented Reality Head-Up Display in the windscreen constitutes the third plane. The driving settings can be modified on the steering wheel, while information such as revs, road speed, energy management, the driver’s heart rate and availability of Boost+ mode is spread among a total of five clusters in the Curved Glass Display behind.
Think of the Boost+ mode as the M button in the current crop of BMW's sports cars.
Of course, radical prototypes are one thing, but is there a production car based on the M Next concept in some form?
"We show things with a serious intent," Pieter Nota, BMW member of the board of management customer, brands and sales, told WhichCar at the event. "I can't commit to that now but, of course, we show such a study to have an impact in the market.
“Also the Vision i-Next that we have shown in Los Angeles for the first time last year, is a blueprint for our i-Next (production model) coming out in 2021.
“I wouldn't commit today 100 percent - these things still need some decisions - but we don't put it out there as a play."
He believes, though, that BMW customers are ready for an M car with an electrified drivetrain.
"Absolutely. The M Next is a supercar but we use the electrification to give it an extra boost. But it's an entirely convincing package and a statement that M also goes electric. The future for M is also certainly electric. I think customers are ready for that."