It was at the end of May when BMW hopped inside the cabin of the iNEXT to provide us with an official glimpse of the SUV’s cabin by showing off the back of the massive driver-oriented curved display. Fast forward to July 22, a new interior detail has been revealed as we get to see the electric vehicle’s all-new steering wheel that represents a departure from previous designs.
We’ve seen spy shots of prototypes inside and out before, but those had typical BMW steering wheels carried over from something you can get in a 3 Series or an X5. The production-ready iNEXT will boast a polygonal steering wheel featuring an almost flat rim at the upper and lower sections combined with rounded corners at the sides. BMW explains they did this not just for the sake of coming out with something new, but to make it easier to figure out the steering angle based on the position on the wheel compared to a traditional circular-shaped wheel.
Gallery: 2021 BMW iNEXT teasers
In addition, the polygonal geometry is considered by the German premium brand as being ideal for a vehicle that offers a highly automated driving mode alongside the conventional driving experience. The explanation lies in the wheel’s shape as the driver can easily figure out the steering’s angle the moment the automated driving mode is turned off to take control of the vehicle in a safe manner.
The two-spoke steering wheel boasts optical fibers built into the side sections that light up whenever the driver needs to take control of the iNEXT or when the automated driving functions are available. BMW explains the flat lower section of the rim was designed with ergonomics in mind as it gives the driver more legroom whenever entering and exiting the vehicle while providing additional freedom of movement during extended trips. That will come in handy during journeys with the active cruise control turned on for a considerable amount of time as the driver will be able to bend both legs to avoid fatigue.
Billed as being BMW’s “technology flagship,” the iNEXT will go into production in 2021 and will benefit from the company’s fifth-generation electric drive system.
Everything under control, everything in view: the polygonal steering wheel in the BMW iNEXT
Distinctive geometry optimises recognisability of steering position when switching from highly automated driving to active driving, also enhancing entry comfort and the view of the instrument cluster.
Munich. The BMW iNEXT heralds the start of a new era of driving pleasure. Its capacity for highly automated driving is combined with extensive advancements in terms of interior design. The first BMW Group model in which the driver is no longer required to take care of the task of driving but can still actively take command at any time is fitted with a completely newly designed steering wheel. With its polygonal geometry, it is perfect for switching between highly automated and active driving. In addition, the steering wheel's unique contours – inspired by motor racing – optimises entry and seating comfort as well as providing an enhanced view of the instrument cluster. Like the Curved Display, the polygonal steering wheel forms part of the pioneering interior design of the BMW iNEXT – a model which will be produced from 2021 onwards as the premium automobile manufacturer’s new technology flagship.
With its striking, contemporary geometry, the steering wheel in the BMW iNEXT symbolises the start of the age of highly automated driving. Its rim is flattened in both the lower and upper sections, while the rounded corners at the sides provide a comfortable hand rest. The advantages of this geometry come into play in particular when switching from highly automated to active driving. As compared to a circular shape, this makes it much easier to recognise the steering angle based on the position of the steering wheel. The moment the driver re-takes control of the vehicle, they can detect the current steering angle instantly – both visually and by means of touch – so as to be able to continue travelling in the BMW iNEXT safely and supremely on the course already commenced.
Optical fibres integrated in the side sections of the steering wheel inform the driver of the availability of highly automated driving functions by means of coloured signals, as well as indicating situations where the driver is required to take over active control of the vehicle themselves. This form of interaction between driver and vehicle is another facet of the pioneering interior design offered by the BMW iNEXT and reflects the vehicle’s intelligence.
The distinctive geometry of the steering wheel in the BMW iNEXT has other ergonomically optimised aspects, too. The flattening of the lower section makes for enhanced comfort when entering and exiting the vehicle. It also increases freedom of movement over long distances in that it enables the driver to bend both their left leg – for example when using the Active Cruise Control function – and their right leg.
What is more, the polygonal steering wheel is perfectly harmonised with the design of the BMW iNEXT display and control elements. Its shape enlarges the driver’s view of the instrument panel, with the novel Curved Display at its centre. Both the position of the display unit – consistently geared towards the driver – and the geometry of the steering wheel thus both contribute to optimised legibility of graphic displays.