Munich - If you ever tried to imagine a futuristic spiritual successor to the iconic BMW M1, reinterpreted as an autonomous hybrid electric car, then you’d probably arrive at something fairly similar to the BMW Vision M Next design study, which was revealed at the BMW #NEXTGen event in Munich on Tuesday.

But hang on a minute - the M1 is all about driver enjoyment, so wouldn’t an autonomous car completely defeat the object?

Not necessarily. The BMW M Next concept takes a look at how driving pleasure could survive in a future littered with autonomous cars

In the words of BMW design vice president  Adrian van Hooydonk, the M Next “provides a glimpse into the future of sporty driving.”

“Where the BMW Vision iNext illustrated how autonomous driving is set to transform life on board our vehicles, the BMW Vision M Next demonstrates how state-of-the-art technology can also make the experience of driving yourself purer and more emotionally engaging,” Van Hooydonk added. 

The cabin’s geometry and technology have been specifically formulated to prevent distractions and help keep the driver’s attention on the task of driving.

Thus the information that it presents is adapted to the sports car’s speed - stomp on the right pedal and you’ll get more driving-related data closer to your eye-line.

You'll more than likely also find more than a few clues to the next-generation BMW i8 in this car's styling and drivetrain.

Powerful hybrid drivetrain

Indeed, all that talk of driver engagement would be meaningless without the right kind of performance and driving dynamics, and to that end the M Next comes to the party with a hybrid drivetrain that allows drivers to choose between all-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive.

The drivetrain, which likely previews that which you’ll find in the next-generation i8, mates a turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine to an electric system for a total output of 441kW. Flat out, the concept is said to be capable of sprinting from 0-100km/h in three seconds flat. There is also an electric-only driving mode that allows drivers to cover 100km between charges.

The car uses facial technology to identify the driver and unlock the vehicle automatically when it is approached.

The minimalist cabin was designed to appear as if it were cut from a single mould, and everything centres around what BMW calls the ‘Boost Pod’, which forms the interface between the driver and car. Information is relayed across three visual tiers placed directly in the driver’s field of vision, and by far the coolest of these is the full surface Augmented Reality Head-Up Display in the windscreen. 

The cabin is finished in an innovative range of materials, including woven synthetic fibres and anodised titanium, while the seats have a shell-like, sculptured design and are upholstered in a foam material with shape memory.

Like the iNext concept, the M Next is something of a test bed for BMW’s future experience concepts, which it calls ‘Ease’ and ‘Boost’. The latter involves the driver actually driving, while ‘Ease’ sees the cabin transformed into something of a “living space on four wheels” while the vehicle itself takes up the task of driving.

IOL Motoring