BMW has been going wild around its 100th anniversary celebrations this month, first with its Vision Next 100 concept car — a wild interpretation of what an Ultimate Driving Machine might look like a few decades from now. (And "wild" is an understatement, considering it has several hundred morphing polygons embedded in the dashboard that undulate to communicate things to to the driver.)
But the Vision Next 100 wasn't the only news on BMW's agenda. There are a couple more futuristic concept cars in the works from BMW brands Rolls-Royce and Mini, for one. Then there's a whole host of real, actual stuff you can buy that's going to roll out over the coming months.
In a press release issued today, BMW runs through a host of programs it's working on. It's a little difficult to unpack, honestly — there are a lot of buzzwords BMW has packed into this thing, first of which is iNEXT. BMW uses iNEXT to refer to a "revolutionary new BMW i model that will raise premium individual mobility to previously unknown levels," featuring some form of autonomous driving capability, an electric powertrain, and a "trailblazing interior design." It's unclear whether the iNEXT name will make it to production, but by all appearances, this car is going to end up as BMW's electric flagship — possibly a 7 Series equivalent (or even fancier) but packed with a bunch of next-gen tech and Tesla-like propulsion.
BMW is also confirming the release of a drop-top i8, which we saw teased at CES this year as the i Vision Future Interaction concept (interestingly, this was the second time we've seen an i8 Spyder concept, but the first time in a couple years). This year, BMW expects to have a total of seven plug-in hybrid or pure electric models across its brands. In the future, a hybrid Mini will be coming, but it sounds like that won't be on the road in 2016.
Speaking of the i8, BMW is relaunching its i brand with Project i 2.0, which is shifting its focus from electrification to "an equally ambitious path with respect to automated and fully networked driving." That can mean a lot of things, but BMW calls out a few features and focus areas in particular that it's working on for its i cars, including HD mapping and sensors (especially useful for self-driving tech), cloud connectivity, and artificial intelligence. In the Vision Next 100 concept, BMW showed a weird little gemstone-shaped thing called the "Companion" that it asserted could learn a driver's habits over time to start making decisions for them, so that's probably closely related to the company's interest in AI.
In the meantime, a refreshed i3 with a bigger battery and better range is expected later this year. That's good — the current i3 manages sub-100-mile runs between charges, while cheaper cars like the new-generation Nissan Leaf and the upcoming Chevy Bolt are hitting 150 and up.
Beyond electrification and connectivity, though, there's still BMW's meat and potatoes — and the company has some news for more traditional car fans, too. First up, there's a BMW X7 coming, which will be a giant SUV to do battle with the Escalades of the world. Next — and perhaps most exciting — there's "a further expansion of the M product range" coming, which is BMW's high-performance brand. The M2 is promising to be the most exciting M car in ages, so BMW's riding a wave of M hype right now that it's undoubtedly looking to capitalize on.
We don't have photos or details on any of these things yet, but the year is young: there are plenty of auto shows to come, and it looks like at least some of this news is going to extend into 2017. Buckle down.