The BMW iNext won’t begin production until sometime next year, but the teaser campaign for one of the automaker’s most technologically innovative products ever continues unabated. The latest shows off the all-electric SUV’s kidney grille, though it won’t be used for airflow. Instead, it’ll serve as the SUV’s “eye,” housing the tech needed for its Level 3 semi-autonomous capabilities.

Previous spy photos and teasers have kept the grille well hidden, though it’s not like the automaker went with a completely different grille design. The images that show part of the manufacturing process reveal a relatively conventional-looking BMW grille with diamond-shaped accents. The grille will allow for the integration of the camera technology, radar, and other sensors needed for the semi-autonomous driving system. Level 3 tech still requires the driver to keep their hands on the wheel in the event of an emergency.   

Gallery: BMW iNext Grille

The autonomous tech is just one of the SUV’s exciting features. It’ll also be an all-electric model. Details about the powertrain are still a well-guarded secret, but BMW says the SUV could offer up to 373 miles (600 kilometres) of total range, though that’s in the forgiving WLTP test cycle. We expect BMW to offer multiple powertrain variations – some will focus on efficiency while others will emphasise performance. The projected 373-mile range is likely for the iNext’s most efficient offering. More powerful models will likely provide a shorter range.

BMW has been billing the iNext as a technological powerhouse. The all-electric powertrain and Level 3 autonomous tech are great starters, but it’ll also feature controllable levels of side glass tinting, much like we see today in sunroofs, that will help better regulate in-car temps and add some privacy.

Gallery: BMW iNext spy photos

The BMW iNext enters production sometime next year at the automaker’s Dingolfing, Germany factory. However, a reveal date hasn’t been announced, though we’d expect it’s quickly approaching. BMW announced the factory producing the grilles would also produce other “high-tech” components for the SUV, including parts for the cockpit, electric drive system, and structural pieces. We look forward to learning more.

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Innovative strength from Lower Bavaria: Production of high-tech components for the BMW iNEXT starts in Landshut

Munich/Landshut. The Lower Bavarian BMW Group Landshut plant again assumes its role as an innovation driver for the automotive future: With a number of important high-tech components, it will give the BMW iNEXT, which starts rolling off the assembly line in Dingolfing from 2021, a face. The BMW iNEXT is the BMW Group’s first all-electric production vehicle prepared for fully automated driving. Today, Dr. Andreas Wendt, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for Purchasing and Supplier Network, and Hubert Aiwanger, Deputy Prime Minister of Bavaria and the Bavarian Minister of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy, opened a new production facility at the Landshut location. The innovative kidney grille – the “eye” – for the BMW iNEXT will be produced there.

The technologically complex kidney grille is vital for highly-automated driving: It allows the integration of camera technology, radar functions and further sensors required for highly developed driver assistance systems into the front end of the vehicle. The BMW Group Landshut is investing a total of over 50 million Euros in innovative components for the BMW iNEXT and further future vehicle models.

In-house production of components as an innovation hub for future issues such as automated driving  

“Automated driving is a huge chance for Germany as an industrial location. With future-oriented technologies, we are generating decisive competitive advantages. Especially during the current transformation of our sector, our in-house component production at Landshut is assuming more than ever the role of an innovation hub,” says board member Wendt. “In addition to highly automated driving, mobility of the future will be characterized by electric mobility and digitalisation – the BMW iNEXT is synonymous with all of this, as are Landshut and the BMW Group in Lower Bavaria.

Aiwanger, the Deputy Prime Minister of Bavaria, praised the strength and the presence of the BMW Group in East Bavaria: “The future-oriented project BMW iNEXT underscores the economic significance of the automobile industry and vehicle construction in the region. The state of Bavaria is proud of the fact that this relevant chapter in the history of the sector is being opened here at this location.” Furthermore, he added that with a view to the corona crisis, the state government was grateful for the BMW Group’s support of the regional economy even in difficult times.

Broad spectrum of high-tech components from Landshut

The kidney grille for the BMW iNEXT was developed at the BMW Group’s Landshut Lightweight Construction and Technology Center (LuTZ) and is symbolic of the transformation of the sector: For the BMW iNEXT, the brand-characterising radiator grille will become a multifunctional, innovative high-tech component. Apart from the grille, the Landshut plant will also produce further innovative components for the cockpit and the electric drive system for the iNEXT, but also structural components made from carbon fibre compound materials such as CFRP, for example. The light metal casting department provides the housing for the future electric drive motor and also developed the globally unique Injector Casting Process (ICA), whereby the electric drive system for the BMW iNEXT does without rare earths.

Effective use of the competitive advantage and industrialisation competence

“Thanks to our in-house component manufacturing facility for lightweight construction and the technology centre here at this location, we have a genuine advantage over our competitors. We have industrialisation competence, we can develop strategically crucial innovations and at the same time reliably assess external partners and suppliers,” said Dr. Wolfgang Blümlhuber, Purchasing and Supplier Network, Senior Vice President Technology Driving Dynamics, Light Metal Casting.

“The Landshut plant stands for innovative power from Lower Bavaria,” emphasised Dr. Stefan Kasperowski, Head of BMW Group Plant Landshut.

By investing in the manufacture of iNEXT components, the BMW Group is making a clear commitment to the location.” Willibald Löw, Chairman of the Works Council of BMW Group Plant Landshut, added: “Today in particular, this is a strong signal for long-term local job security.”