After the i4 and iX, here’s what’s next for BMW
Neue Klasse EVs will be 'transformative', but still look like normal BMWs. Phew
BMW's acceleration of its electric-car programme means it gave full details of the iX and i4 on the same day. But come 2025, even those will be beginning to go obsolete.
According to Frank Weber, BMW's head of engineering, the range will effectively split. On the electric side, the all-new range of BMWs, collectively known as the Neue Klasse, will have entries in all BMW's main classes of car size and body style.
On the other side, the platforms that run petrol, diesel and PHEV powertrains will continue to evolve. For them, an upgraded engine range is coming that'll last until 2035. "That will be the last major update," Weber tells us.
The i4's platform originated with the 4 Series, and its body is still close to a 4 Series Gran Coupe. But Weber says the final car has so little in common underneath it's effectively a purpose-made electric car. And it certainly has good stats: its WLTP range is 369 miles, or 319 miles for the 544bhp all-wheel-drive M50i version.
And the iX is on an all-new platform, using a lot of carbonfibre and even more aluminium. That keeps it strong and comparatively not too heavy for a humungous electric SUV - never a light breed.
But the Neue Klasse will be different again. It's named after the line of cars – New Class in English – that started in 1962. BMW had no sensibly priced sports saloons back then, but this launched it, and there's a direct bloodline from those cars (and their related coupes) to today's 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8 series.
BMW wants the 2025 Neue Klasse to be just as transformative. No pressure then. Why do an all-new line when you're only just launching the i4 and iX? "Time is moving faster. There is so much technical and societal advancement in four years. This will get even faster in the next 10 years."
Weber says that the Neue Klasse will look like mainstream BMWs. "When we launched the i3 in 2013 it was clear a battery vehicle was a strange thing so we made it look a very different product. But by 2030 half of all the cars we sell will be full-electric. So the new class is not about a separate line-up. Battery vehicles are in our core; people will want a BMW, not a strange-looking thing."
However, they will be designed to take advantage of the space efficiency of electric cars, with smaller 'engine bays' and long wheelbases, more interior room and advanced aero.
They will also have super-advanced digital functions. Since 2018 BMW has already sold 2.5 million cars with over-the-air upgradability - the most, claims Weber, of any carmaker. And it's not just the infotainment, but functions deep in the car. "Anything that does not affect the homologation."
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The Neue Klasse will go further, with drive-assist, and eventually autonomous driving, two-way connectivity that means the driver assist will get better over time (as per Tesla of course), multiple infotainment functions, connected charging, a pay-per-upgrade store and lifetime performance improvements. What if you don't trust these systems, or don't want to surrender your location or data? They'll have off buttons.