The next chapter in BMW electrification is upon us, and the next three models, which are slated to debut over the next two years, are being put through their paces in the frozen environment found at BMW’s winter test facility in Arjeplog, Sweden. Every new BMW goes through cold weather testing like this, along with being exposed to the opposite end of the spectrum halfway around the world in places like Death Valley, California.
Of particular interest this time, though, is the fact that the three vehicles being tested rely exclusively on electricity for their motivational source, systems that find themselves challenged in extreme temperatures. The same goes for all of the autonomous driving tech and other control apparatuses, which are often taxed beyond their limits at the ends of the spectrum as far as temperature and weather conditions are concerned.
It seems like iNEXT is the model that BMW has the most riding on, as the company has, in not so many words, referred to it as the tip of the spear in terms of the NUMBER ONE > NEXT corporate strategy. Compared with the concept, prototypes of what could become a production model seem substantially toned down, but still quite a bit different than the styling many of us are accustomed to when we hear BMW mentioned in a conversation—the greenhouse design isn’t completely foreign to i3 or i8 owners, though.
iNEXT production is scheduled to begin at BMW Plant Dingolfing some time during 2021. The model will offer level three autonomy, and is constructed using a modular platform. Further referred to as the BMW Group’s technological flagship, fifth generation BMW eDrive technology will offer a range that can exceed 600 kilometers, or over 370 miles, under the right conditions.
The first of the lot to hit the market will be the iX3 though, which is scheduled for production to begin in 2020. An important mile marker on the road to iNEXT and beyond, and what is also expected to be a hot seller thanks to its similarities with the X3, the iX3 is perhaps the most conventional looking model of the bunch, and will be available globally.
Production, however, will happen exclusively in Shenyang, China, with BMW’s majority-owned venture Brilliance building the new electric SAV. iX3 highlights include fifth generation BMW eDrive which can afford a range of roughly 250 miles, and the ability to handle charging stations with output capacity of up to 150 kilowatts.
Although iNEXT has been the subject of a sizable press campaign, the i4 is likely the most important model discussed here. Oriented at the premium mid-range segment, the i4 appears styled to capitalize on the success found by the 4 Series Gran Coupe, and will offer sporty, dynamic driving with solely electric motivation. Although sales of the iX3 are likely to eclipse any conventional car-like alternative, the i4 represents an important precedent for the brand’s image, as it largely embodies the future of the of the sports sedan, a segment invented by BMW.
The i4 is also particularly impressive in terms of forecasted specifications. Fifth generation eDrive is once again used, and will make possible a range comparable to that of iNEXT at over 370 miles. Or, you can bury the accelerator, and use the spontaneous power delivery of the electrified drivetrain to sprint from a standstill to 60 mph in just four seconds, while the stop speed will be approximately 125 mph. Production of the i4 is scheduled to begin during 2021.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]