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BMW's Vision Neue Klasse X concept channels 3.0 CSL and E30 vibes, teases next-gen iX3

BMW's new design language harks back to BMW's old design language

Published: 21 Mar 2024

This is the BMW Vision Neue Klasse X, a thinly disguised teaser for the next-gen iX3, due to go on sale in the back half of 2025. It follows last year’s well-received – and restrained – saloon proposal, and deepens BMW’s radical new over-arching philosophy. “The Neue Klasse is much more than just a car or a specific concept,” BMW's chairman Oliver Zipse says. “It is redefining the BMW brand – and, at the same time, will be more BMW than ever.”

Interesting choice of words. During a recent preview, TopGear.com got up close and personal with the Vision X and can confirm that it’s confident, robust and very cleanly surfaced. Forget the recent adventures in polarisation, the shock value here is that the Vision X looks a lot like a BMW – a wholly modern one, designed from the ground up to be electric. It’s notably cab-backward in stance, relies on sculptural qualities rather than graphics for impact, and has an impressively low beltline.

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The Neue Klasse, of course, is the ‘umbrella’ term for BMW’s next generation of electric cars. It takes its name from the 1962 saloon that helped turn the company’s fortunes round after some difficult years. The new Neue Klasse family is said to represent the single biggest investment BMW has ever made, a multi-billion euro bet on a new future. Invoking the past in this way is telling in itself, and BMW’s fanatical fan-base will be pleased to know that their eyes don’t deceive them: there is a definite 02 series vibe to the Vision X’s front end, and shades of 3.0 CSL and E30 in its glasshouse and overall form language.

The wheelbase is long, the front and rear overhangs nicely abbreviated. “We wanted to define the true-to-the-bone heritage of BMW,” head of i Design Kai Langer tells us, “and the Vision X is our pure essence. Try to remove a line from this car and you just won’t be able to. And look at the dash-to-axle ratio… it’s really short. The Vision X is clearly a BMW, even though it has completely different proportions.”

It’s tempting to see this new era as a repudiation of what’s come before – the iX, i7 and heaven help us the XM – but Langer insists that they were all vital staging posts on the path to Neue Klasse. Like the saloon before it, the Vision X manages to be modern and future-focused without being irredeemably in-yer-face.

“No individual BMW model influenced this car,” he continues, “but we looked at what was done right, at what transported the pure essence of BMW. Things like the large glass surface area, because I wanted to have light flooding the interior. We wanted to create something that looks light because that implies agility and dynamism. We also wanted to transmit a sense of positivity and inclusivity.”

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The vertical kidney grille will be a signature of BMW’s X family going forward, a more horizontal treatment reserved for saloons and sports cars. It’s reimagined here as more of a 3D sculpture with backlit elements. They illuminate as the driver approaches the car. The front head- and rear LED lights contain 3D-printed elements individually controlled with variable light intensity to create a palpable sense of depth. The Hofmeister kink in the rear side glass is achieved with a reflective print rather than superfluous chrome trim. In this car, nothing is there unless it needs to be, so frippery is out.

That’s because the Vision X is a showcase for BMW’s commitment to the growing ‘circular’ economy, and uses lots of secondary materials in its interior. There’s a new four-spoke wheel, and a simplified central display. The i-Drive controller has gone. Sustainability means interrogating what’s really essential, which has also led to the Panoramic Vision.

Rather than a conventional instrument display, it projects key information across the width of the windscreen. A 3D head-up display is also present. Items on the central display can be swiped onto the Panoramic read-out. The colour scheme on the central display is also projected backlit on the textile surface of what we used to call the dashboard. Clever. The steering wheel is a fabulous looking thing, and includes a sound mixing function called Hypersonx. Daft but fun, and connected to the Vision X’s mission to entertain as an entity in itself.

“The world is in a difficult place right now,” Langer says, “but the future is bright. We’re demonstrating that you can be sustainable and still have fun.”

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The bigger picture is highly promising on that front. The Neue Klasse will use the sixth generation of BMW eDrive tech, with new batteries in 75, 90 and 105kWh capacities, and an 800-volt system that’ll improve charging speeds by up to 30 per cent. Its energy density, says BMW, is 20 per cent improved. And then there’s the so-called ‘heart of joy’ which networks four control units to integrate the powertrain and driving dynamics, and is apparently good for up to one megawatt – 1,340bhp – of power. It all bodes well for when the Vision X sheds its conceptual disguise.

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