BMW has unveiled its Vision Neue Klasse concept car at the IAA Mobility auto show in its hometown of Munich, Germany.
The retro-future concept car previews an upcoming electric sports sedan that we expect to see morph into a 3-series as early as the 2026 model year.
Its styling pays homage to the iconic BMW Neue Klasse, which itself marked a key transformative period for the company when it launched in 1962.
The original Neue Klasse saved BMW's bacon back in the 1960s, and it also evolved into the famed 2002, which was so good that it led Car and Driver'sDavid E. Davis Jr. to proclaim it "One of modern civilization's all-time best ways to get somewhere sitting down." Today, the brand is far stronger then it was back then, but this vision for its electrified future marks the start of a similarly transformative period for the company—hence the revival of the Neue Klasse name.
The concept car shown here—perhaps we should call it the Neue Neue Klasse?—is electric and showcases future tech in a retro-modern wrapper. Not only do we expect that the Vision Neue Klasse concept previews a future 3-series sedan, the next generation of which is expected to debut in 2025 as a 2026 model, but we also see it as a new design language for the entire BMW brand.
The forward-slanted nose and exaggerated kidney-shaped faux grilles are the most dramatic parts of the Neue Klasse concept's front end, and its homage to the 2002 is unmistakable. But it's no simple rehashing of that 1960s classic, as the concept car features a digital grille with lights that gently pulse as though the car is breathing.
Narrow roof pillars and large windows make the small car's greenhouse look much larger, and its simple profile is almost devoid of character lines. The result is a flat look, with a single crease low on the doors that serves to draw a connection to the front and rear wheels.
Speaking of windows, a thin strip of e-Ink display—like what you'd see on an eReader tablet—stretches across the bottom of the two side windows. It lights up as you approach the car and serves as a touch-sensitive door handle. The car's taillamps feature 3-D-printed elements arranged in a cascading design that create a sense of depth while bright red LEDs illuminate them from behind.
A set of 21-inch wheels was carefully designed for maximum aerodynamics without looking like they are, and a pair of rear-facing cameras on thin stalks stand in for traditional exterior mirrors—a feature we expect won't make the jump to production.
Stepping inside the Neue Klasse concept reveals a futuristic, digital-centric design. A large black panel that runs the width of the dashboard along the base of the windshield illuminates with BMW's next-generation iDrive interface. Called Panoramic Vision, the black panel actually serves as a projection screen for the infotainment system, and it looks quite slick.
A trapezoidal center display is still within reach of the driver's right hand, but key information can be moved up to the panoramic screen for easier viewing while on the go. As if this wasn't enough displays, the Neue Klasse concept also offers a head-up display. Although this system seems like it would be specific to the concept car, BMW says buyers can expect to see this feature in the production version.
A quartet of midcentury-modern bucket seats gives the interior a vintage touch, and BMW has chosen yellow corduroy upholstery, which gives the otherwise white interior some warmth. A floating center console divides the cabin, and the multi-function steering wheel features not only a flat bottom but also a flat top and sides, creating a sort of square look.
Next-Gen EV Platform
The Neue Klasse serves as the debut of BMW's next-generation EV platform, which is said to be an 800-volt system and uses a new battery design with 20 percent higher energy density. Combined with improvements in aerodynamics, higher-efficiency electric motors, and better thermal management, BMW says, the range can be increased by up to 30 percent compared with the company's current EV drivetrain.
While it will be primarily produced in Hungary, BMW is said to be exploring split production volumes with its plant in the United States to better take advantage of federal EV incentives here. Furthermore, a new battery factory is planned in South Carolina. The company also says its production facilities won't use any fossil fuels but will focus on using a greater amount of recycled materials in the process.
Whether or not the revived Neue Klasse will soon turn out to be the new best way to get somewhere sitting down remains to be seen, but we are looking forward to finding out.
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