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The BMW i Vision Dee is a future EV sports sedan that can talk to you

Everyone always has something to say about BMW.

The Bavarian automaker has long had a knack for setting the benchmark with cars like the 3 Series and X5, but when the vehicles change over time, BMW’s superfans don’t hold back.

“The old cars were better.”

“That new grille is just too much.”

“I will never pay for subscription features in a car.”

Now, at CES 2023, a new BMW concept asks: What if the car had something to say, too? And if a car could talk, how would it communicate with its user?

This is the BMW i Vision Dee, which stands for “Digital Emotional Experience”. It’s one of BMW’s most radical – but in some ways plausible – concept cars in years. It is a minimalist electric performance sedan that relies heavily on digital features such as augmented reality and voice-activated virtual assistants. Think of the metaverse or Amazon Alexa but in the form of a sports sedan. The concept also offers the option of creating an avatar profile for the driver, which can even be projected onto the side window.

If a car could talk, how would it communicate with its user?

In fact, the color changing grille of the i Vision Dee is like a ‘face’ with its own expressions on top of the virtual voice. This is a BMW that talks back and may even have hits of its own. “My father was an E30the car said to me at a recent tech demonstration, and early social media promotions for the concept evoked the action show of the 1980s. Knight Rider.

“The headlights and the closed BMW kidney grille also form a common whole phygital (fusion of physical and digital) icon on a uniform surface, allowing the vehicle to produce different facial expressions,” the automaker said in a press release. “This means that the BMW i Vision Dee can talk to people and at the same time visually express moods such as joy, surprise or approval.”

Like the i Vision Circular as of 2021, the i Vision Dee is just a concept car, intended to give a taste of possible future designs and technologies that could eventually find their way onto dealer lots. At the same time, the design itself feels like something that could be a preview of a future electric 3 Series or some kind of i4.

Visually, the i Vision Dee almost looks like a cross between a Tesla Model 3 and one of BMW’s classic sports sedans, such as a 2002 or an E30. The kidney grille extends over almost the entire front of the concept and a rear light bar does the same over the trunk. The white, almost featureless body is a stark contrast to the fastidious designs of many current BMWs, while still retaining signature features such as the “Hofmeister kink” of the rear windows.

While BMW won’t directly confirm that this design is intended for production, it’s pretty safe to assume it will affect future cars. BMW’s concepts can become reality – see the i8 supercar and i3 city car of the past decade. BMW even calls this “another milestone on the way” to Neue Klasse, BMW’s upcoming EV-specific car platform. That arrangement is named after the “new class” of sports sedans and coupes that defined BMW’s image in the 1960s and 1970s.

While today’s BMWs are usually built to offer a mix of internal combustion, hybrid or EV power – the electric i4 and ICE-powered 4 Series Gran Coupé, for example, are essentially the same vehicle – the following range of models have been designed from the sharpened to be electric for better range and better battery packaging.

BMW says the i Vision Dee also represents a major evolution of the E Ink color shift technology that debuted at last year’s CES and as a result can transform the exterior into 32 different colors – not just one. The concept’s body is divided into 240 E Ink segments, each of which can be controlled individually, says BMW. It’s the first time E Ink has been used on the entire exterior of a car, and BMW has said the technology could come close to consumer-level commercialization.

Refreshingly, the i Vision Dee is a three-box sedan, no other blob-like crossover SUV concept. That in itself is a bold move by BMW and one that is at odds with current trends; Sales of sedans have been declining for years while the global market has shifted to crossovers and trucks.

For BMW, it is proof that the sports sedan is still important to the company’s image and profits, said BMW design boss Domagoj Dukec at a press preview in Germany last year.

“We want to show our customers that as the world changes, we will adapt, but we will certainly always remain trusted,” said Dukec. “Everyone who works on my team, from different cultures and different generations, loves the brand and knows their history. They don’t want to lose that.”

Dukec added: “It’s BMW too. When you talk about the core product… that is the 3 and 5 Series.”

Who needs screens when you have a windshield?

The i Vision Dee brings good news to motorists who have resented the explosion of in-car touchscreens lately: there are no screens here.

The concept car’s bare, drab gray interior is even more minimalist in design than the exterior, with a slimmed-down steering wheel, seats and what BMW calls the “Mixed Reality Slider”: a touch screen that controls how much information the driver sees on the advanced Heads-Up display.

The i Vision Dee almost looks like a cross between a Tesla Model 3 and one of BMW’s classic sports sedans

There’s also bad news for drivers who hate screens: the entire windshield is now essentially a display, combining the functions of a dashboard with an infotainment system and adding augmented reality features.

Using the windshield to host displays is nothing new; many modern cars project vehicle speeds, navigation and other data there (and have in various forms since the 1980s). But this concept takes that idea to a whole new level.

Images projected onto the screen include social media posts and AR displays in addition to vehicle diagnostics. The other windows are also dimmable if drivers and passengers want to use the full VR mode. Would this be a huge distraction? Maybe, but BMW says it’s safer than taking your eyes completely off the road to look at a dash-mounted screen.

“Width-width projection of the windshield allows information to be displayed on the largest possible surface area – which only becomes recognizable as a display once it is activated,” BMW said in a statement. “[The car] visualizes how an advanced head-up display can also be used for the display and operating concept in the future.”

A version of this system, presumably a stripped-down version, will debut on Neue Klasse cars from 2025.

“An intelligent companion”, not just a car

But while many of the features previewed on the i Vision Dee certainly won’t be ready for primetime in 2023, they feel like a credible approximation of where the increasingly digital-focused automotive industry is heading.

The entire windshield is now essentially a display

“With the BMW i Vision Dee, we are showing what is possible when hardware and software merge. In this way, we can harness the full potential of digitization to transform the car into an intelligent companion,” said Oliver Zipse, BMW’s chairman of the board, in a statement.

That’s cold comfort to the diehards who want BMW to go back to how it used to be – however they want to see it. It is also not suitable for critics of the technologies in the i Vision Dee. After all, Amazon Alexa did little more than billions of dollars set on fire by 2022, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to pivot to the metaverse was met with outright disdain. The question remains whether drivers even want some of the features of the i Vision Dee, particularly the flowing displays across the windshield or the talking virtual assistant.

Even if it struggles with things like getting drivers accept subscription features in cars, BMW says yes. The future won’t be high-revving straight-sixes and manual transmissions, so BMW needs to find a way to convince the diehard believers that “performance” can be determined by things like software speed, charging time and electric range. The cars it produces in the coming years probably won’t be as hugely ambitious as the i Vision Dee, but it does show that BMW is already thinking in that direction.

Shreya has been with australiabusinessblog.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider australiabusinessblog.com, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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