Presented at this week's Beijing Auto Show, the all-new BMW Vision Future Luxury focuses in on the future of luxury motoring. Functional elements and new technologies melt away into an elegant, fluid design that seamlessly blends looks and performance.
"The design of the BMW Vision Future Luxury is the messenger of our philosophy of modern luxury, one in which innovative technologies play a key and vital role," explains BMW head of design Karim Habib. "These innovations deliver a new, multifaceted luxury experience that spans intelligent lightweight engineering, innovative interior design and a radically new user interface design."
The strategy behind the concept is most apparent in the light but intricate interior design. The inner shell has been pared down to its most basic, functional form, creating a lighter, more spacious overall car. BMW builds atop the base carbon structure, adding a functional electronic interface layer, an aluminum top layer for added structural strength, and wood and leather trim for warm, supple comfort.
When the doors open, they reveal a minimalistic B-pillar that's made possible by suicide rear doors and seat frames integrated into the load-bearing carbon structure. The cut-out in the cockpit-length center console tunnel is another example of the pared down approach BMW takes with the VFL concept.
Another standout aspect of the interior is the manner in which functional elements blend naturally into the greater aesthetic. The LED light strands swirling around the trim of the doors and center tunnel are every bit as much a stylish accent as they are a soft, ambient light source. The digital instrument panel and rear tablet controller are similarly embedded into the design.
The wraparound driver's area commands the driver's attention by way of a triple display. The usual speedometer, rev counter, etc. are front and center, while the left screen displays vehicle information and the right screen shows infotainment information. The driver can control these displays by way of voice command, as well as old-school physical controls.
The driver is further dialed in by a Vision Head Up Display cast directly into his road view. The virtual display overlays information onto the real-life view ahead, highlighting aspects of the landscape, such as road hazards, buildings and traffic signs, to focus the driver's attention on the most important elements of the visible world.
Since the driver infotainment screen is angled in toward the driver, the front passenger gets a dedicated display, as do the two rear passengers. These three peripheral displays wire all occupants into the Web-connected infotainment system and ConnectedDrive services. With the help of the front touch panel and rear touchscreen tablet, the passengers can browse, watch video, play games, and so on.
They can also exchange information with the other displays. In other words, the car occupants don't have to, you know, communicate with each other using real words and such. Maybe that's just as well, because all passengers also have access to speed and trip information, threatening the development of an extreme form of backseat driving.
We take a bit of issue with all of the aerodynamic slicing and dicing, which seems out of place on an exterior design as otherwise cohesive and smooth as the VFL. The harsh scars in the front bumper, the Air Breather system behind the front wheel arches, and the rear air vents would be in their element on a supercar or tuner car, but they muddy the look of this high-end luxury sedan.
BMW doesn't provide any powertrain details and presents the Vision Future Luxury more as a design showcase. There is an eDrive badge on the left rear, however, suggesting that the concept – or a car based on it – could use hybrid technology borrowed from BMW's i brand.
Rumors suggest that the Vision Future Luxury may be the first look at an upcoming 9 Series flagship that would go head to head with Bentley and Rolls Royce offerings, along with an expected Mercedes-Benz S-Class Maybach. BMW doesn't use any suggestive language in its press release and has been tight-lipped about the prospect.