BMW is on a world tour this year with a selection of concept cars that present its vision for the next 100 years of automotive development. Catering to our wildest adolescent fantasies, these cars are aggressively, almost absurdly futuristic, with this week's debutant Rolls-Royce and Mini models exhibiting a preference for pizzazz over practicality. BMW's own-brand Vision Next 100 vehicle is no less extreme, eschewing traditional things like a dashboard and rear-view mirrors in favor of high-tech alternatives.
I was already a fan of the futurism embodied by BMW’s Vision concept when it was made official back in March, but seeing it in all its aerodynamic glory in London this week, I’m upgrading my excitement by a couple of notches. The car simply looks stunning, like a more practical, more gadgety version of today’s supercars. It has a thoroughly streamlined shape that nevertheless still accommodates four people and even has room to include the design flourish of fin-like taillights (which I love). It’s very much the sort of thing I used to sketch during boring math classes in high school, and it’s that connection with the fantastic that makes BMW’s concepts so compelling today.
Adrian van Hooydonk, head of BMW Group Design, says that “if you are able to imagine something, there’s a good chance it could one day become reality.” Setting a developmental horizon of 20 to 30 years, BMW is looking beyond the current trend of adding more displays to the interior of cars, past even the proliferation of flexible OLED displays, to the point where “the entire windscreen will serve as a giant display.” On the outside, a new Alive Geometry will shift the car’s shape in accordance with how it is being driven, flaring out or tapering down as required.
The purpose of the BMW Vision Next 100 cars is to create concepts that people can engage with, and the company firmly believes that the emotional driving experience must be informed by emotional design. That’s why the headlights look like a falcon’s talons and why the golden honey paint-job splinters out into small polygons as it morphs imperceptibly from the metal exterior to the darkened windows.
I didn’t get to see inside this particular BMW, but the company has helpfully provided video materials showing off what the ride would be like. Comprising both a Boost mode for the best of BMW’s storied driving tradition and an Ease mode for a relaxing, autonomous ride, this vision of the future aims to be both thrilling and convenient.
The BMW, Rolls-Royce, and Mini Vision Next 100 concept cars will be on show at London’s Roundhouse from this Saturday through to the end of next week.