BMW’s flagship electric SUV is mysterious, intriguing and in the deserts of South Africa

The upcoming BMW iNEXT is a mysterious creature but it gets less and less mysterious each day. At the moment, we know several key facts about this exciting new upcoming car that we will happily share with you.

BMW iNEXT

First of all, the BMW iNEXT will be an all-electric crossover SUV. It looks to be a similar shape and size to the current BMW X2 crossover, with at least one huge difference: the grille. The most scandalous thing about the iNEXT is the rumour floating around that it will have a grille that totally redefines the iconic BMW kidney grille that we have known and loved for decades now.

The grille on the iNEXT, along with a lot of other upcoming new models such as the new 4 Series and i4, is rumoured to be quite large. Now, there are two realistic possibilities at the moment. One is that the grille is absolutely huge, as seen in BMW’s recent concepts, the other possibility is that it is just a little bit enlarged, as seen in the current 3 Series, 7 Series, and X7 SUV.

BMW iNEXT (2)

In concepts such as the i4 electric saloon and the ‘Concept 4’ which is said to be the next-gen 4 Series, the grilles are huge, almost stretching from the floor to the bonnet. A very radical design change which has divide fans and angered many Beemer fans. Although, I’ve got to say it’s growing on me!

BMW iNEXT (3)

The concept car for the iNEXT, called the ‘Vision iNEXT’, did actually feature the extremely large grille, making us believe that the camouflaged wrap on the prototype is, in fact, hiding the exact same grille.  

BMW iNEXT
The Vision iNEXT Concept Car

We also know that production isn’t set to start until 2021 and is said that it will be manufactured in BMW’s Dingolfing plant in Germany. Although we appear to be a year away from seeing this car becoming a real, purchasable product, we already know that BMW are aiming for a range of around 360 (WLTP rated) miles and that BMW will place the iNEXT right in the centre of BMW’s new electric vehicle portfolio.

BMW iNEXT

This crossover will also feature all-wheel-drive and will be built upon a ‘common platform’ as BMW refers to it. This platform will be used for petrol, diesel and electric models, which is an idea that isn’t currently used enough in the motoring industry at the moment.

BMW iNEXT

Although the production iNEXT will be wildly different from the concept Vision iNEXT, one thing is rumoured to remain the same. Although the rear-hinged doors, minimalistic interior and the lack of a B pillar will not be in the production model, the odd-shaped steering wheel will stay put.

BMW iNEXT

BMW have teased that the iNEXT will feature a kind of octagonal steering wheel rather than a conventional circular one in a series of teaser images. This is so that when the car is driving autonomously, it will be easier for the driver to discern and interpret the angle of the wheel and therefore, the angle of steering.

BMW iNEXT

Industry insiders also seem to have a good clue on the official naming of the iNEXT, saying that it will be called the ‘i6’ upon release. I mean, ‘iNEXT’ does sound pretty silly, after all.

So, why is the so-called ‘iNEXT’ currently in the deserts of South Africa? Well, the demanding conditions of the extreme heat make for the perfect testing grounds for the upcoming electric SUV. Not only is the 35°C heat a good test for the battery and the rest of the car’s performance, the constant solar radiation, the sand, dust and tough terrain also serve as good a testing ground for the car’s suspension, brakes, motors and so on.

BMW iNEXT

BMW engineers will be busy monitoring everything they can on the iNEXT during this hot weather testing, learning how well it cools down, how well it keeps dust out of the cabin and important components, how it handles extended solar radiation exposure, how it handles off-road and how well the battery maintains its temperature.

The iNEXT has already been tested in the freezing environments of Arjeplog, Sweden but has yet to complete its torture laps at Nürburgring so that’s what we’ll be looking out for next. We should be expecting more information to be released to us sometime this year, seeing as the car is due out next year.

BMW iNEXT

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If you enjoyed this, you may also like to take a look back at the BMW i8 and say your final goodbyes before it’s discontinued this year.

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Doc: “The way I see it, if you're gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?”

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