Here’s BMW’s electric replacement for the X3—production starts in 2025

March 21, 2024 | by

A BMW Vision Neue Klasse X concept in the courtyard of a modern house

CASCAIS, Portugal—BMW is one of the more advanced automakers when it comes to electrification. Its current portfolio of electric vehicles includes the iX and i7, both of which have the edge on the competition in their respective classes—not bad for cars that use an underlying architecture that was designed to be powertrain-agnostic. Engineers, back at the corporate base in Munich, have been hard at work on its next platform, though, which will be just for battery EVs and will debut with next year’s Neue Klasse.

Last year, we saw a preview of what the Neue Klasse sedan should look like when it goes on sale in 2025. Now, we’ve seen the Vision Neue Klasse X, which will morph next year into BMW’s next electric crossover, probably with the iX3 nameplate. It will be an important car for the German automaker; crossovers and SUVs fail to get any less popular with the car-buying public, and demand for the production version of the Neue Klasse X will surely outstrip that for the four-door car.

BMW would rather call its X cars “Sports Activity Vehicles” rather than SUVs or crossovers and argues that it invented the breed with the original X5. That car was a handsome machine, and the Neue Klasse X keeps those classic two-box proportions and adorns them with bold angular creases that emphasize the wheel arches and create some negative space lower down the car’s side that has the effect of reducing its visual bulk.

BMW SAVs will sport upright kidney grilles in the future.
Enlarge / BMW SAVs will sport upright kidney grilles in the future.

Sharp creases at the front feed into a new, upright kidney grille that we’ll see more of in future electric X BMWs. The kidney grille is backlit and complimented by three-dimensional headlights that include the car’s daytime running lights. As the driver approaches the car, the lights display a welcome sequence that continues into the interior lighting.

“The X models will always remain strong in character: monolithic, clean, and with a very distinctive vertical interpretation of the BMW light signature,” said head of BMW Group design Adrian van Hooydonk.

The Vision Neue Klasse X’s interior appears closer to production reality than the one we saw in the sedan concept. BMW says it wants drivers to “keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road,” so there’s a new multifunction steering wheel that replaces the scrollwheel iDrive controller you’ll find on the center console of current BMWs. It uses the same warm-touch crystal material as the iDrive controller in the iX and i7, and has haptics built in for driver feedback.

But it won’t be an entirely voice- and touchscreen-operated HMI. BMW told us that the production version will have more physical buttons and knobs for commonly used controls—presumably climate and audio settings. You’ll definitely find an evolution of BMW’s current AI assistant, which it’s giving more of a personality. At CES this year, BMW showed us a preview of this that leveraged Amazon Alexa.

A panoramic display wraps around the base of the windshield. The new multifunction steering wheel replaces the scroll wheel iDrive controller.
Enlarge / A panoramic display wraps around the base of the windshield. The new multifunction steering wheel replaces the scroll wheel iDrive controller.

There’s a wraparound screen at the base of the windshield, which reminds me of the old Honda Prelude’s dashboard. Things like speed or warning lights are displayed on the part directly in front of the driver, with the rest consisting of six user-configurable slots so you can pick and choose what data shows up there. To complement the panoramic display, there will also be an augmented reality head-up display.

The UI that appears on the infotainment touchscreen is matched to the car’s interior lighting to make it less obtrusive. BMW will let you upload your own background images or use pictures from an Instagram feed, changing the interior lighting and contrast to match.

The Neue Klasse X will be powered by BMW’s sixth-generation electric motors and a new battery pack that uses cylindrical cells with a 20 percent higher volumetric energy density than the prismatic cells used in its current (fifth-gen) powertrain. The new packs will operate at 800 V with much faster DC fast charging and up to 30 percent more range, BMW says.

The electronic architecture that controls all the car’s various systems is also new for the Neue Klasse. BMW is among the automakers that are adopting multiple domain controllers in place of dozens of black boxes each with an individual function, with a 30 percent reduction in the weight of the car’s wiring loom among the benefits.

The domain controller that handles advanced driver assistance systems is five times as fast as the chips BMW currently uses. A 2-driver assist—one that combines adaptive cruise control and lane keeping but which requires the driver to pay attention to the road—will be standard, with level 3 traffic assist and level 4 valet parking as options, at least in markets where those are legal.

Meanwhile, the domain controller that deals with vehicle dynamics has 10 times the speed of current ECUs. As you might hope for a company that has based its marketing on engaging handling, it says that the goal for the new dynamics controller is an increase in “sheer driving pleasure.”

The Neue Klasse X should be less resource-intensive for BMW to build and easier to recycle at the end of its life. It uses some of the ideas we first saw with the i Vision Circular concept of 2021. BMW is opting for monomaterials where possible and is trying not to glue dissimilar materials together as it makes it impossible to recycle them. The interior uses a plant-based, petroleum-free surface material for the center console and the lower parts of the door paneling, and recycled maritime plastics are being used for injection-molded parts.


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