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Production BMW iNext Will Look Like Polarizing Concept

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The next BMW 5 Series and 7 Series could also utilize the iNext's self-driving technology.

Last week, the BMW iNext concept made its public debut at the 2018 LA Auto Show. Previewing BMW's future flagship electric SUV, the concept's design is certainly polarizing, with its large kidney grille and a minimalist interior designed for autonomous driving. You might want to get used to the car's unconventional styling, however, as BMW design chief Adrian van Hooydonk confirmed to Top Gear the production model will look a lot like the concept.

"It's a vision car so it shows all the ideas that we have and that we're working on," said Hooydonk. "The production car is a little far away at the moment, 2021 is what we're aiming for. By and large, you will certainly recognize this concept car in the production vehicle."

While the looks are dividing opinions, there are some smart design elements such as the 3D tail lights that protrude out of the car that improves the aerodynamics. "The tail end of that car will be very aerodynamic," Hooydonk explained. "The glasshouse tapers strongly to the rear. You need some vertical trailing off edges and the tail lamp plays a role in that. Nearly all our tail lamps do it; we always make sure there's a trailing edge where the air can come off cleanly."

Working on electric BMW i models also allows the design team to be more experimental. "We consider BMW i as a start-up within the inner walls of our company," said Hooydonk . "The job of i is to innovate, excite and inspire, both in technology and design terms. We feel much freer when we design an i product. The i3 and i8 opened up a door we didn't even know was there for the design of the core products."

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Does this mean the new i3 will have a conventional design compared to its radical predecessor? "It's too early to say. We haven't done the design of the successor product yet. Funnily enough, the sales performance goes up every year. Which is very unusual in the life cycle of a car. We were ahead of time, and time has caught up with us. People still like the look of it."

In contrast, future electric BMWs based on existing models like the iX3 will have more familiar designs. Many future models will be based on the same platform as the iNext and use its plug-in and self-driving systems. Hooydonk added that it "makes sense" to fit these technologies into the next 7 series and 5 Series. By 2025, BMW will have 25 electrified cars on sale.

While the BMW iNext will launch with Level 3 autonomous technology, BMW plans to test full Level 5 autonomy by 2025. But even when you aren't in control, BMW's autonomy chief, Klaus Büttner, promises it will still drive like a BMW. "We are astonished how progressive some announcements are from other companies and what they bring to the road," he said. "We are hesitating because we have to prove safety. It must be totally designed."