Byton M-Byte SUV: range, performance and release date

The new M-Byte electric SUV from Chinese start-up Byton will feature a radical, hi-tech interior and should make its European debut in 2020

The new Byton M-Byte electric SUV has concluded its cold-weather testing programme in Inner Mongolia, China, ahead of its debut later this year.

Prototypes have covered thousands of miles over the last few months, encountering temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius. Engineers have been working to ensure the battery, electric motor and other components are reliable in extreme conditions.

Official images (gallery below) show the car wearing heavy camouflage, disguising the design for now.

Byton M-Byte performance

Although performance figures have yet to be finalised, Byton has revealed that it's planning two variants of the M-Byte SUV. The entry-level car will feature a 71kWh battery with a range of almost 250 miles, as well as 268bhp and 400Nm or torque.

A premium model will have a 95kWh battery, giving it a range of up to 323 miles. Power rises to 496bhp, with torque reaching 710Nm. This should put it within touching distance of the Tesla Model S 100D, which boasts 611bhp and 966Nm of torque respectively.

Interior and technology

Earlier this year, the 49-inch display set to feature in the M-Byte SUV was been revealed at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. First seen on the Concept model at last year’s show, the screen is officially called a ‘Shared Experience Display’ (SED) and is expected to allow gesture and voice control. Byton claims it's the world's largest in-car display for a production model.

Byton demonstrated a system at last year's CES that allowed drivers to control an on-screen cursor using hand motions, with commands executed by snapping fingers. Integration of Amazon Alexa was also mooted.

The company also says the position of the display has been carefully developed and tested to not affect driver line-of-sight and can automatically adjust brightness according to changes in ambient lighting to avoid further distraction. In addition, Byton promises the SED will meet safety and crash standards in all target markets

Designed for the premium and luxury end of the market, Byton has a focus on comfort and technology and describes the M-Byte as a ‘Smart Intuitive Vehicle’, or SIV. One of the many proposed technologies is facial recognition, which could be deployed in place of the conventional key to lock and unlock the M-Byte.

The M-Byte is set to use a plethora of premium materials when production begins. Wood, leather and metal all featured inside, with a panoramic roof making the car feel light and spacious inside. The front seats turn inwards by 12 degrees to create what the company refers to as a ‘shared space’ for drivers and passengers.

Located ahead of the driver and front-seat passenger, the Shared Experience Display is a 48-inch-wide curved display with three areas for content. In full-screen mode, it can be operated by the seven-inch driver tablet and an eight-inch touchpad. The SED is not itself a touchscreen.

The driver tablet is found at the centre of the steering wheel, while the touchpad is located between the driver and the front passenger seats on the production model, enabling the front passenger to control the SED and enjoy the same interactive experience as the driver. Rear passengers have access to independent rear-seat entertainment screens that also share content with the SED.

Byton drivers will have access to Byton Life, which is described as an "open digital ecosystem" that connects applications, data, and smart devices. It has machine-learning capabilities that analyse the user’s schedule, location, preferences, and application data to provide functions such as scheduling reminders, online shopping tasks and remote charging management.

It can also recognise voices of different users and sounds from different directions in the car. Various autonomous driving features are expected when the M-Byte goes on sale, with the company promising further over-the-air upgrades to expand the car’s abilities at a later stage.

Price and on-sale date

Byton has yet to confirm pricing for its forthcoming models, but the M-Byte SUV is expected to cost from around £35,000 should production begin on-schedule later in 2019. The M-Byte will hit the US and Europe in 2020 after its launch in China, although no right-hand-drive models are planned for the UK market at this stage.

Based in Nanjing, China, Byton also has offices in Munich, Germany, and Santa Clara, USA. The company is led by former BMW i division head Carsten Breitfeld, and a second production car – the Byton K-Byte – is set arrive in 2021, using the same platform as the M-Byte.