If you’re a cynic, you’d say that the lack of physical switches and chunky tech is a cost-cutting measure. BMW would almost certainly prefer you think that keeping things simple is the future—even though the trend for touchscreening all the things is, in various places, being judged as something of a bust. Even at the highest end of the scale there’s a mix of touchscreens and hard buttons.
You’ll be most familiar with the iDrive screen slap bang in the middle of the dash. You can control it and its myriad functions with your hands, multifunction buttons on the steering wheel, or BMW’s own voice control. The iDrive wheel that came with the system at its inception in 2001 is nowhere to be seen.
That’s all standard so far—”car has touchscreen” is not groundbreaking news. BMW Panoramic Vision is a little more on the money. It’s a light bar that stretches across the width of the windscreen projecting relevant information to all who want it at a driver-friendly eye height. You can limit how far across the car it goes, so if you’d rather your passenger didn’t have anything to look at, you can restrict the info to your eyes only. As well as being a neat information delivery system, it’s also interactive. In a suitably Minority Report move, you can flick information on the iDrive screen up onto the Panoramic Vision display with a finger. If you’re tired of glancing down at a certain widget, lob it up to your eyeline and you’re away. Phygital isn’t just for door handles and lights.
While the Vision Neue Klasse’s tricks are still conceptual and the Mini’s trick rear lights are a ways off, there is an example of phygital thinking that you can buy now: BMW Motorrad’s ConnectedRide Smartglasses. The app-connected eyewear is designed to fit snugly under a motorcycle helmet and give riders a heads-up display directly in their eyeline, showing them speed and navigation info. Think Google Glass but actually useful, if a little expensive at £749 ($750). They’ll go nicely with the firm’s new city-friendly CE 02 electric scooter.
As a design study, and a way to show how BMW’s looking to cut the amount of stuff on a car with smart tech, the Vision Neue Klasse points toward an interesting future. What it hasn’t said is exactly what its powertrain will be. We know it—or whatever comes from it—will be based on BMW’s sixth-generation eDrive technology, which, the company says, will give 30 percent more range, 30 percent faster charging, and 25 percent more efficiency. What that translates into remains to be seen. We’ll find out in 2025.