After WWII, BMW was in rough shape. It sold microcars like the Isetta and high-end sports cars like the 507, but it needed something mainstream. That car was the so-called Neue Klasse (new class) sedan, which debuted as the 1500 in 1961 and eventually evolved into the beloved 2002. Small, elegant, and powered by the legendary M10 four-cylinder engine, Neue Klasse sedans established the BMW we know today.
It's a big name to resurrect, but that's exactly what BMW's done with the Vision Neue Klasse, which BMW debuted car Saturday at the IAA auto show in Munich. BMW says this previews an all-electric road car to be launched in 2025, and more broadly shows the brand's future design direction.
This appears to be a reset for BMW design. Over the last decade or so, the brand's cars have gotten more complicated in appearance, more challenging. The Vision Neue Klasse very much takes inspiration from the original, with a tall greenhouse and prominent C-pillar Hofmeister kink. It has the traditional BMW shark-nose front end, with the brand's kidney grilles extending the entire width of the fascia. While these are far bigger than the original Neue Klasse's kidneys, that car did have trim that extended all the way to the headlight, so it's definitely a reference. The shark-nose front is mirrored by the angular trunk lid, with the rear taillights emphasizing the car's width pushing BMW style into new territory.
It's quite elegant. I suspect people who have grown weary of BMW's recent design direction and long for the old days should like this.
Other than the iX, all of BMW's current EV offerings share underpinnings and bodywork with a gas-powered equivalent. The i4 is based on the 4-series, i5 is based on the 5-series, and i7 based on the 7-series. The upcoming Neue Klasse platform will be for electric cars only. BMW says this platform and the new technologies its developing will boost range and charging speeds by 30 percent while upping overall efficiency by 25 percent. It will also be BMW's first use of an 800-volt electrical architecture. That's what you get in a Porsche Taycan, and in a new Hyundai Ioniq 5, Ioniq 6, or Kia EV6.
Inside, the Vision Neue Kasse is very concept-car minimalist with few traditional analog controls, and a neat center screen that seems to reference the Hofmeister kink. The production Neue Klasse car will bring forward a new generation of BMW's iDrive infotainment system.
BMW says the upcoming Neue Klasse cars represent the biggest investment the company has ever made. We'll just have to wait to see if they prove to be as important as the originals.
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