The tech-laden i Vision Dee saloon concept harks back to old school BMW models and design, but is packed full of future technology
With new cars packing more and more technology the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is increasingly becoming a major motor show for manufacturers, and the latest brand to reveal a new project at CES 2023 is BMW, with its i Vision Dee concept.
The new all-electric experimental show car hints at a future production saloon model based on the brand's forthcoming Neue Klasse platform technology, boasting some retro-themed BMW design cues with cutting-edge features, such as an evolution of BMW's E-Ink technology.
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“Dee” stands for Digital Emotional Experience, according to BMW, with the aim of “creating an even stronger bond between people and their cars going forwards.” Key to this, BMW says, is the Mixed Reality Slider. The concept is a “futuristic mid-size saloon with a new and paired down design language” and this extends to the interior. On the minimalist dash is a five-stage “shy tech” touch-sensitive control that allows users to determine how much digital content to mix with reality.
Using the inside of the windscreen as a projection surface for the full-width head-up display, stage one – “analogue” – focuses purely on the view through the windscreen. Stage two features more driving-related information, while the next step up brings in more data from the communications system, allowing users to stay connected. This could include social media feeds, according to BMW.
Stage four enhances the experience through features such as augmented reality projection onto the windscreen – potentially sat-nav directions or information on landmarks visible through the windscreen – while the final stage delivers a fully immersive experience. BMW states “entry into virtual worlds” with dimmable windows that can be used gradually to fade out reality in parallel with the different stages.
The i Vision Dee is just a concept, but the brand is serious about integrating more digital functionality into its future models. According to Frank Weber, BMW member of the board for development, “A BMW lives by its unparalleled digital performance.” He said that “BMW i Vision Dee is about perfect integration of virtual and physical experiences”, adding that “Whoever excels at integrating the customer's everyday digital worlds into the vehicle at all levels will succeed in mastering the future of car building.”
Some elements of the i Vision Dee do directly preview what we'll see fitted to future BMWs from 2025 however, when the brand introduces cars based on its forthcoming Neue Klasse platform. BMW CEO Oliver Zipse previously outlined that the firm is “planning a compact sedan in the 3 Series segment and a sporty SUV” with the i Vision Dee representing loosely some elements of the former once it makes production.
BMW has confirmed that a standard production version of the head-up display that spans the full width of the car's windscreen will be implemented in its Neue Klasse cars from 2025 onwards. The firm's user interface expert Olivier Pitrat told Auto Express that in future the “windscreen is the only screen we need.”
Expect some of the i Vision Dee's design cues to be referenced in the eventual production-ready Neue Klasse saloon model too, with short front and rear overhangs, wide wheel arches and a squat body, plus a return to BMW's traditional wider kidney grilles and 'Hofmeister kink' C-pillar design.
However, both these latter two points have been reimagined for the future – along with the concept's headlights and tail-lights – using a substance called E-Ink. BMW first showed this tech at last year's Consumer Electronics Show on its iX Flow SUV, with E-Ink similar to the screen of an e-reader and able to change pixel colour between black and white. However, for CES 2023 and the i Vision Dee, the brand has developed full-colour E-Ink.
Covering the full skin of the vehicle, up to 32 colours can be displayed over 240 individually controlled segments, allowing for an “almost infinite variety of patterns to be generated and varied within seconds”. Given the number of colours available, it's also likely BMW's traditional light blue, dark blue and red M colours could be displayed, opening up possibilities for future hot EVs.
The i Vision Dee's “phygital” (a fusion of physical and digital) icons, such as the kidney grilles, headlights, tail-lights and the panels around the Hofmeister kinks, can also show animations. Altering these areas – depicting blinking eyes in the headlights, for example – gives the i Vision Dee facial expressions, according to BMW, and allows the car to communicate with those around it. The brand says i Vision Dee can express visually moods such as joy, astonishment or approval.
The car's side windows are also treated with a special projection film that allows the driver's avatar to be displayed on the window, offering further personalisation potential.
BMW says that with its reductive design elements the i Vision Dee's styling “has been deliberately pared down to focus on the digital experience and the DNA of the BMW brand.” This is why the firm chose to showcase a conventional three-box saloon as the first expression of its Neue Klasse era, as this style of car “forms the core of the BMW brand”.
The reductive elements continue inside with a single-spoke steering wheel that features touchpoints that come to life depending on the user's thumb movements. These can then be used to control the information displayed on the windscreen HUD. There are also very few controls inside the car, with the Mixed Reality slider one of the main features.
It's part of BMW's 'hands on the wheel, eyes on the road' philosophy, according to Head of BMW Group Design, Adrian van Hooydonk. He said that with the i Vision Dee BMW shows “how the car can be seamlessly integrated into your digital life and become a trusty companion”, before adding that “The vehicle itself becomes your portal to the digital world – with the driver always in control. Implemented the right way, technology will create worthwhile experiences, make you a better driver and simply bring humans and machines together.”
BMW's assertion that its future is “electric, circular and digital” has percolated through many of the brand's recent concept cars, with the i Vision Circular covering the middle element and the i Vision Dee the latter. 'Dee' is the latest step in the German firm's roll-out of its Neue Klasse models and we're expecting to see more on this subject – potentially including technical details – later this year.
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