New BMW iNEXT 2021: specs and on-sale date

BMW iNEXT steering wheel teased, as flagship SUV prepares for debut in 2021

BMW has released a teaser image of the steering wheel that will feature in the new, electric iNEXT SUV that’s set to go on sale in 2021.

Featuring a squared-off shape, the steering wheel is designed to help drivers switch between manual and “highly automated” driving modes.

It should also give drivers a better view of the instrument panel, while also increasing legroom and comfort.

The new BMW electric SUV was pictured during its winter testing programme in Sweden earlier this year, giving us our first real taste of what it'll look like.

Based on the Vision iNEXT concept that was revealed in September 2018, the BMW iNEXT forms the basis of a production car that will become the technological flagship for the company’s range of i models in around two years’ time.

BMW Vision iNEXT styling

Several key changes have been made to the design since the concept was unveiled: the rear suicide doors have made way for conventional ones, and the grille has shrunk in size and been joined by an extra air intake.

Meanwhile the B-pillar has been reintroduced, and the concept’s wing-mounted cameras have been replaced with cheaper mirrors.

Initially, the Vision iNEXT concept took its inspiration from the BMW X7, boasting upright gills at each corner of the front apron and a ‘Streamflow’ window line designed to mark out the car as an ‘i’ vehicle.

The blanked-off grille was intended to show that the Vision iNEXT concept was an electric car, simultaneously housing many of the sensors required for the level 3 autonomous driving features BMW is targeting for 2021. It’s not yet clear if these will be relocated by the time the production model is signed off.

Interior

The testing images give nothing away about the iNEXT’s interior design, so we’ve only got the concept’s layout - as well as the steering wheel teaser - to inform us for now.

The concept included all manner of amazing features, such as a steering wheel that collapses into the dashboard when the car is in autonomous mode, and touch-sensitive panels built into the fabric of the rear seats.

These would allow passengers to control minor functions like the audio volume, but there’s no chance they’ll appear in the production car.

Drivetrain

So far, BMW hasn’t made any mention of performance figures for the iNEXT, however we do know it will feature a pure electric drivetrain. The purpose of the winter testing programme in Arjeplog, Sweden, is to assess the all-wheel-drive system in cold conditions, as well as monitor the performance of the electric motor and battery.

The BMW i4 - a premium four-door coupe - is set to use the same platform, and will support a maximum battery size of 120kWh, for a range of 435 miles. The iNEXT is a larger vehicle, and BMW says it will achieve an official range in excess of 373 miles. The platform for the iNEXT will support petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid vehicles, too.

Last month, BMW announced that its plans to introduce 25 new electrified models were two years ahead of schedule, with their target moved forward from 2025 to 2023.

A couple of weeks previously, it announced that it would co-develop electric powertrains with Jaguar Land Rover in order to keep costs down.