BMW Neue Klasse SUV concept confirmed for 21 March unveiling

2 months, 1 week ago - 19. March 2024, autocar
BMW Neue Klasse SUV concept confirmed for 21 March unveiling
New Vision Neue Klasse X concept will preview the future of the German brand’s electric SUV line-up

BMW will provide a look at the future of its SUV line-up on 21 March, when it unveils the new Vision Neue Klasse X concept.

The German brand confirmed the debut date on social media with a teaser image showing the car’s side profile, revealing it to have a similar silhouette to the current iX.

The concept is expected to closely preview the first of six cars based on BMW’s Neue Klasse EV platform that will arrive from the latter half of 2025.

A bold, five-seat SUV set to succeed the existing iX3, the bold five-seat SUV will pack close to 600bhp in its most potent form.

It will be joined by a radical i3 saloon, which was previewed as the Neue Klasse concept at the Munich show in September.

Other Neue Klasse EVs will be added to the BMW line-up in quick succession, BMW R&D boss Frank Weber told Autocar in December 2023.

“We are in a phase where flexibility is required,” he said. “We have to detach ourselves from how we have perceived platforms up to now.

There is an increasing realisation that the art of mastering diversity in your portfolio lies in how you use and network major components – engines, motors, battery cells, onboard computers, control units, app functions and software upgrades.

“It is not so much the platform structure itself but the individual components and how you use them. That is the Neue Klasse.

The second-generation iX3, codenamed NA5, will be sold alongside petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid versions of the fifth-generation ‘G45’ X3, in a similar strategy to today’s iX3.

But while the new EV moves on to the Neue Klasse platform, the more familiar ICE variants will be based on an updated version of the CLAR platform in use today.

Weber said: “When a large part of your sales is electric, you have to consider how you align all platforms for volume growth. We are firmly convinced that our strength in conventional internal-combustion-engine models, together with the developments that we have in store for our next generation of electric models, will lead to further growth for BMW.”

Production of the Audi Q6 E-tron and Porsche Macan Electric rival, which is being developed for sale in each of BMW’s existing markets, will take place at a new factory in Debrecen, Hungary, from 2025.

BMW’s plants in Munich, Germany, and San Luis Potosí, Mexico, are also slated to begin production of Neue Klasse models from 2026 and 2027.

Until now, the iX3 and Chinese-market i3 saloon have been produced exclusively at BMW’s factory in Dadong, China. Production of the new ICE X3, on the other hand, will remain at BMW’s Spartanburg plant in the US.

At the centre of the developments brought to the Neue Klasse architecture is a new sixth-generation lithium ion battery. Developed in-house at BMW, it dispenses with the prismatic cells of existing electric-powered BMW models for new cylindrical cells featuring liquid cooling.

The new cells come with a standard diameter of 46mm and two different heights – either 95mm or 120mm, depending on the model in which they are housed.

Weber revealed that the new battery features greater nickel but reduced cobalt content within the cathode, compared with the fifth-generation battery in use today.

The anode also receives more silicon content and an altered synthetic graphite mix. All up, the new battery technology is claimed to bring about a significant 20% increase in volumetric energy density.

This will allow future BMWs to provide a much longer range from batteries that are the same size as those in use today.

With a shift from the 400V electric architecture used in all existing BMW EVs to a more advanced 800V system, the new battery is also claimed to charge 30% faster than the unit it replaces.

There are no official details two years before BMW’s planned launch, but the new iX3 and other Neue Klasse models are expected to support charging at up to 350kW on high-powered DC chargers for a notable reduction in charging times.

For reference, the 77.4kWh battery packs of the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 can be topped up from 10-80% in just 18 minutes at a 350kW charger. Another key development for upcoming Neue Klasse models is a new range of electric motors.

A crucial component of the new architecture, according to Weber, the synchronous units are designed specifically for the Neue Klasse platform but have also been developed to fit into other, CLAR-based electric models.

Autocar has been told that they feature new windings, an altered stator and additional cooling capacity through a revised housing and water jacket.

BMW touts a 25% increase in efficiency for Neue Klasse models, but Weber said the gains are not down to the electric motor alone.

We want to be maximally efficient but at the same time maximally dynamic,” he said. “It is not only the electric motor that contributes to efficiency. It is the entire system – all components and what we call secondary effects like weight, aerodynamics and rolling resistance.

“Today, the i4 has a real-world range of around 400km [249 miles]. In the future, it will have 500km [311 miles] or more. We’ve always said the answer can’t be to make ever-larger batteries.”

Unlike today’s rear-wheel-drive-only iX3, the second-generation car will be available in rear- and four-wheel-drive layouts, in both standard and M-branded performance guises, including a four-wheel-drive iX3 M60 flagship due in 2026.

Set to join the i5 M60 and iX M60 in a growing number of electric models from BMW M, the iX3 M60 is expected to offer approaching 600bhp from a pair of new sixth-generation electric motors.

In a bid to provide them with a typical BMW-like driving character, all Neue Klasse-based models will also be fitted with a new supercomputer controller, or what BMW calls the ‘Heart of Joy’.

Weber said: “It is nothing less than BMW’s DNA, encompassing everything related to driving dynamics and providing the basis for how the drivetrain and the chassis interact and perform.

We’re convinced few competitors can do this so successfully. They might purchase the competency from somewhere, but there is nowhere they can buy it in combination like this because we’ve done it ourselves using our own expertise and knowledge.”

Weber said BMW has invested heavily in ensuring its future models continue to deliver on the company’s long-held ‘ultimate driving machine’ mantra despite the shift to electrification. “There was a long discussion exactly around this particular character with the Neue Klasse,” said Weber.

“We came to the conclusion that our customers don’t want just a computer and wheels. They want a digitally competent product, but they don’t want a computer on wheels. It’s a highly emotional relationship you enter into.”

Weber pinpointed the electric motor and its ability to provide infinite levels of throttle response as one area that BMW has been able to exploit in its efforts to provide future models with a distinct driving character.

“It’s very precise – unlike the combustion engine, which is a bit clumsy by comparison,” he said.

An electric motor regulates incredibly finely. We’ve managed to harness this in combination with chassis systems to take electric car driving to the next level.”

With its four separate microprocessors, Weber is confident the Heart of Joy controller will set new standards for computing power.

He said: "When we started development, we quickly realised the concept was correct. What we weren’t banking on was the potential. It really is a game-changer.”

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