BMW wants you to know that things are changing. In fall of 2023, the company unveiled the Vision Neue Klasse concept car, an all-electric sedan that previews the design and engineering we can expect from a new generation of BMW vehicles. Today, BMW debuts the Vision Neue Klasse X, the crossover member of the new EV family. Because while BMW insists it’s on the precipice of a paradigm shift, it’s not about to abandon its popular and profitable "sports activity vehicles."

The "Neue Klasse" name is freighted with meaning for BMW enthusiasts. The company first coined this moniker—which is simply German for "new class"—in the early 1960s, applying it to a brand-new lineup of sporty, modernist sedans. The Neue Klasse spawned the legendary BMW 2002, and saved the company from the brink of extinction.

BMW Vision Neue Klasse X SUV Concept

Modern BMW isn't existentially threatened the way it was in the early 1960s, but the company faces a dramatically evolving global auto industry. BMW has toyed with EVs and hybrids for years now, but the new Neue Klasse concept lineup points to a full-scale re-envisioning of how a BMW looks, works, and drives.

If the Vision Neue Klasse concept sedan is tomorrow’s 3 Series, the Vision Neue Klasse X seen here can be understood as tomorrow's X3.

"Together with the BMW Vision Neue Klasse, the BMW Vision Neue Klasse X showcases the breadth of our future BMW model lineup," said Oliver Zipse, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG, in a statement. "In this way, we are underlining that the Neue Klasse is much more than just a car or a specific concept; it is redefining the BMW brand—and, at the same time, will be more BMW than ever."

BMW Vision Neue Klasse X SUV Concept
BMW Vision Neue Klasse X SUV Concept

That means this high-riding crossover will have to perform. BMW is bringing a new, EV-specific software strategy to the task. In the typical internal-combustion vehicle, each system—engine, transmission, stability management, adaptive suspension—is controlled by its own ECU. Tweaking the vehicle’s performance in real-time involves lots of communication between these discrete computers.

BMW says the Neue Klasse platform will get rid of conventional system-specific ECUs in favor of "super-brains"—"high-performance computers working smartly together on what, up until now, was processed separately," said Frank Weber, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, in a press statement. Each super-brain will have up to 10 times the computing power of a conventional ECU.

BMW Vision Neue Klasse X SUV Concept

This will allow one super-brain to control all facets of driving dynamics, from torque delivery to traction management to suspension behavior or drive-mode adjustments. Another super-brain will handle all aspects of automated driving, from the sensor suite to GPS route navigation to steering and braking. BMW promises that this super-brain setup will improve processing power and speed, while simplifying the electronic architecture of the vehicle and reducing the size (and weight) of required hardware.

"The result will be more dynamic performance, more precision, more efficiency and even more fun to drive," Weber said in his statement.

BMW says the Neue Klasse EVs will use an all-new sixth-generation version of the company’s eDrive propulsion technology. New, round lithium-ion batteries promise 20 percent more energy density than the current prismatic cells, and BMW says the Neue Klasse vehicles will use 800-volt architecture for rapid charging, enabling 186 miles of battery range with a 10-minute plug-in. Power and performance figures were not given for the Vision Neue Klasse X.

The most striking aspect of the Vision Neue Klasse X is its design. Like the Vision Neue Klasse concept sedan, the X’s body contours are refreshingly simple. The kidney grille, which was squashed and widened on the Neue Klasse sedan, stands tall here, a signature that BMW says will distinguish its Sport Activity Vehicle models from its conventional sedans in the all-electric future.

BMW Vision Neue Klasse X SUV Concept
BMW Vision Neue Klasse X SUV Concept
BMW Vision Neue Klasse X SUV Concept

The silhouette is familiar as a BMW crossover, but the greenhouse is impressively airy, in part thanks to some tricky proportioning: The A- and B-pillars are tapered on their exterior edges, thin and spindly from the outside but flaring out to conventional thickness. Of course, the Vision Neue Klasse X has a Hofmeister kink—a Neue Klasse design signature—though here it’s represented by a ghostly reflective appliqué on the rear quarter windows.

Inside, the Vision Neue Klasse X embraces newfound minimalism, despite promising a whole new level of perpetually-connected telecom integration. Rest in peace, iDrive: With the Neue Klasse, BMW wants you to control the center-dash display by touch or via controls on the steering wheel.

A second full-width display at the base of the windshield shows speed, battery status, and other information you’d normally find on a driver’s instrument panel, which BMW says will be augmented by a head-up display. Aside from a tiny collection of physical buttons on the center console, the entire cockpit is essentially button-free.

BMW Vision Neue Klasse X SUV Concept

As with last year’s Neue Klasse concept sedan, the X features "Verdana" textile upholstery, which is claimed to be plant-and-mineral-based and completely petroleum free. The injection-molded interior components are said to be made from recycled maritime plastics. The coral shade of the corduroy-like upholstery, coupled with the enormous panorama roof and the generous greenhouse, give the interior of the X an invitingly airy feel.

In person, the Vision Neue Klasse X feels like a halfway step between a flight-of-fancy concept car and a ready-for-production machine. The headlights and taillights feel like show-car stuff, and a BMW representative admitted that the production interior will need to have a few more physical controls than what’s on display here. But the door handles and latches, the body stampings, and the daylight openings all seem factory-ready—which they better be, since BMW is promising that the first Neue Klasse crossover will go into production in 2025.

Whether you think of this as an entirely new class of vehicles or not, one thing is certain: The all-electric future of BMW will be defined by SUVs that, I’m betting, will look a lot like what you see here.

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Gallery: BMW Vision Neue Klasse X Concept

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