New BMW iNEXT 2021: specs and on-sale date for electric SUV

BMW iNEXT has been spotted testing once again, as brand's flagship electric SUV prepares for production in 2021

The BMW iNEXT – a prototype electric SUV similar in size to the existing BMW X5 – has been spied testing once again. It’s thought that the production version will use the i5 or iX5 badge, slotting in above the recently revealed iX3 electric SUV.

In February 2020, BMW released its own images of the iNEXT undergoing hot-weather testing in South Africa, before we later saw the car cold-weather testing in Sweden. These most recent shots show the SUV on European roads, likely completing its final assessment before the production version is revealed in early 2021.

These images give us a better look at the car’s design, despite the fact it’s still covered in camouflage cladding. At the front we can pick out the large, BMW 4 Series-inspired kidney grille and slim LED headlights, while at the rear it looks as if some versions will get aerodynamic wheel covers designed to reduce drag.

The back of the new electric SUV is harder to pick apart, although it does look as if the i5 (or iX5) will get a set of slim, horizontal rear light clusters similar to those found on the original iNEXT concept car. The number plate sits on the boot lid, and there are no exhaust pipes – owing to the fact it’ll only be available as a pure-electric model.

While these pictures don’t show the car’s interior, BMW has previously released a teaser image of the steering wheel that'll feature in the production iNEXT. Featuring a squared-off shape, the wheel is designed to help drivers switch between manual and “highly automated” driving modes. It should give drivers a better view of the instrument panel, while also increasing legroom and comfort.

According to BMW, the iNEXT will "set new benchmarks in sportiness, efficiency and range in a battery-powered automobile", while its suspension control and driver-assistance systems will "pave the way for a further step towards autonomous driving".

BMW Vision iNEXT styling

Several key changes have been made to the design since the concept was unveiled: the rear-hinged back doors have made way for conventional ones, for example. The B-pillar has been reintroduced, and the concept’s Audi e-tron-style rear-view cameras have been replaced with conventional door 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 most recent spy images suggest the SUV will get a 4 Series-inspired nose, albeit blanked off like it was on the iNEXT concept car. It’s likely this grille will house many of the sensors required for the level 3 autonomous driving features BMW is targeting for 2021.

Interior design

The previous hot and cold-weather testing images released by BMW give nothing away about the iNEXT’s interior design, so we’ve only got the concept’s layout and a single teaser image 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 little chance they’ll appear in the production car.

Drivetrain and performance

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

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'll achieve an official range in excess of 373 miles. The platform for the iNEXT will support petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid vehicles, too.