BMW Reinvents Itself
BMW claims it is reinventing itself. On September 2, 2023, BMW unveiled a new concept car: the Neue Klasse, or New Class in English. This is the same thing that the 1500 Sedan was called in 1961 when it was unveiled. Of course, that 1500 was a revolution and the starting point for every subsequent BMW. BMW claims it is doing something equally revolutionary with the new New Class. Are BMW enthusiasts ready for this?
The production cars based on the Neue Klasse are two years away, to be introduced in 2025. BMW is doing what it usually does when a big change is coming. They are exposing us early so we can get used to the change. And, of course, be ready to buy the new products starting in 2025.
Electric, Digital, Circular
These are the three words that describe the philosophy behind the Neue Klasse. Electric means, of course, that most of these cars will be either fully electric or hybrids. While BMW is trying to keep its options open regarding powertrains, saying they want to offer each body style with a choice of gas, diesel, electric or hybrid power. But it seems likely that Neue Klasse vehicles will be electric or hybrid only. And I’m not sure about hybrid.
Digital means that most, if not all, analog aspects will be replaced by digital elements. If you’ve driven a new BMW lately, you know the digital dashboards are here and traditional dials are gone. There are still a few buttons to push.
Circular refers to the next generation of recyclability. For a couple of decades, BMW has designed its cars to be recyclable at the end of their service life. This is going further, especially in the reduction of composite parts. The direction is parts made of one material that can be easily recycled.
Two Steps Ahead
The Neue Klasse was introduced by the BMW management board, led by Chairman Oliver Zipse. He stated that, “In this way, we are always able to stay two steps ahead of the future: The Neue Klasse is already bringing mobility of the next decade to the roads in 2025—and leading BMW into a new era.” Mr. Zipse, please let me introduce you to Tesla.
The Neue Klasse will be introduced to the public at the IAA Mobility 2023 International Motor Show in Munich. This is what used to be the Frankfurt Motor Show. The show is in Munich this year and runs from September 5th through 10th.
BMW says the Neue Klasse introduces a new design language, with expansive surfaces and just a few distinctive lines, that has been pared down to the essentials. Signature features, such as the kidney grille and the Hofmeister kink remain.
My first impression on the exterior styling is that it is a breath of fresh air. It is simple and elegant; a drastic change from BMWs of the past two decades. Gone are the giant kidneys and the busy surfacing. I hope the recently introduced XM is the last of the awful styling we’ve been told we should like.
In particular, I like the horizontal line on the side of the Neue Klasse rather than the swoopy stuff we’ve seen so much of. The new treatment of the kidneys I think is attractive. The whole exterior has been pared back and rationalized, much like BMWs were decades ago. It even has a big green house and a shark nose.
Actually, I like almost everything about how this concept looks.
I wish I liked the interior styling as well, but I don’t. Let’s start with the steering wheel, which follows the latest fashion of being flattened top and bottom. This does not appear to be an improvement over a round wheel. If this thing does more than one turn lock-to-lock, I can see this being very awkward.
The seating looks a bit like patio furniture. The upholstery looks about as practical as my i3. That cloth upholstery in the i3 is impossible to clean. I finally solved that problem by buying nice vinyl seat covers from China. They look great.
The Neue Klasse will have the next generation of iDrive, so we all can look forward to that. iDrive has improved through each generation, which makes the latest versions just poor. Let’s face it, cars are becoming rolling computers and the Germans have never been up to the standards of American electronics, much less the Asian car electronics. Drive a Kia if you don’t believe me.
My solution has been to ignore most of the iDrive functions, if the functions can be performed by my phone. The phone is always better. I wish BMW would just give up and use Apple Carplay and Android Auto.
Of course, that’s just the user interfaces. The computers that control the electronics and the batteries should all work great, right? Well, that’s not been my experience. The i3 is supposed to have a powertrain system good for 150,000 miles. Meanwhile, my i3 is currently in the shop, with 39,000 miles on the car, and the system that controls the entire car is kaput. We’ll see if it can be saved.
I think anyone with experience owning BMWs, which would be all of our readers, knows not to buy the first-year production of a BMW with major changes. Let them field test this new stuff on the early adopters.
The lower part of the side windows has e-ink elements which “feature in the exterior welcome scenario, directing attention to the sensor area that activates automatic door opening.” This is said to be a production element, not just for the concept car. The concept has side cameras instead of mirrors. The cameras are more aerodynamic and leave no blind spots. But I’m guessing BMW won’t be able to get those through the various laws around the world.
“Human-car interaction takes place through the BMW Panoramic Vision, the Central Display, and multifunction buttons on the steering wheel.” Well, at least you won’t be able to loan your car to anyone. BMW Panoramic Vision projects information onto the 3D head-up display, which will use the entire width of the windshield. The front passenger can interact with the information on Panoramic Vision. The driver can move information around via gesture. Good thing they won’t be distracted.
Let me give you a quote from the press release verbatim without any snarky comments from me: “The new BMW iDrive is based on a highly integrated software architecture that consolidates data related to the driving experience and infotainment with data from the vehicle’s electronics and electrical system and the BMW cloud. Interaction between human and vehicle can thus be tailored even more closely to the driving situation and individual needs, enabling a totally new perception of mobility.”
The Neue Klasse concept car is a preview of the 2026 i3 Series sedan. But there will be a crossover that will probably come first, joined by the sedan, a touring and an electric M3. Probably the i3 Series will have four or five members within the first two years. The internal numbering system will also be all new. Oldtimers all remember E numbers, but we’re into the Gs with the new cars and Us with the smaller SAVs. But the Neue Klasse cars will start with NA#, with the i3 Neue Klasse sedan leading the way with the NA0 designation.