In future, drivers will be able to choose whether they wish to be driven or do the driving themselves. The BMW Vision M Next is for the latter group, a foretaste of the M division’s electrified future. The focus is on the actively engaged driver, but there will be tech to “provide comprehensive yet carefully targeted assistance to turn them into the ultimate driver.”

“The BMW Vision M Next is a progressive hybrid sports car that makes a very clear and confident statement, in terms of both appearance and interaction,” says Domagoj Dukec, VP of BMW Design.

It borrows styling cues from both classic and contemporary BMW sports cars, with inspiration from the BMW Turbo (the E25 predates the M1) and BMW i8 seen in the low-slung, wedge-shaped silhouette, gullwing doors and striking colour scheme. The front and rear ends are finished in the matte-neon shade Thrilling Orange, producing a contrast against the exterior’s otherwise silk-matte Cast Silver metallic paintwork.

The front-end is a modern interpretation of classic BMW cues. The brand’s signature kidney grille is flanked on either side by triangular elements in Thrilling Orange, which serve to accentuate the air intakes at the sides and the integral headlights.

BMW says that the soft outer curves of the kidney grille openings are reminiscent of a turbine’s air intake and give the front end added dynamic impact. The grille openings are each blanked off by a transparent layer with a laser-etched, illuminated pattern that seems to be floating inside.

The Vision M Next headlights are positioned higher up than the kidney grille. Arranged one above the other rather than side by side, this is a new interpretation of BMW’s classic four-eyed face. The headlights hand a debut to Laser Wire lighting tech, whereby glass fibres coated with phosphorous are used to produce headlight elements with a new, slim and precise form.

The low-slung, wedge-shaped silhouette of the Vision M Next and its butterfly doors is classic sports car stuff (reminds us of the Lamborghini Gallardo), and the climb of its flank lines and the diagonal splash of contrasting orange endow it with forward-surging intent. The black side skirts made from recycled carbon fibre make the car look even lower on the road. The rear 22-inch wheels are an inch larger than the front items, further emphasising the car’s wedge shape.

Another reimagined famous cue is the Hofmeister kink. Instead of incorporating it into the window graphic in the usual BMW fashion, the lines of the shoulders are used to create the effect of the kink. The design is broken up by a gill-like aperture that narrows as it sweeps back from the window surface towards the tail. Another highlight is the Air Flow. Located just in front of the rear wheels, this opening is designed to direct airflow and improve aerodynamics.

The broad, low rear end’s colour scheme divides the car’s sculptural tail into two sections. The orange top section creates a visual link between the coloured areas of the flanks, further adding to the impression of width. The area below it is made from recycled CF and incorporates an aero-optimised diffuser. The design of the rear window – with its glass three-piece louvres- takes its cue from the BMW M1.

The rear lights feature the same Laser Wire tech from the headlights. Inside each light unit, a single wafer-thin glass fibre produces an abstract ECG trace of a heartbeat. The two-dimensional reinterpretation of the distinctive pair of BMW roundels from the BMW Turbo and BMW M1 – a gift to fans – gives them the impression of floating in the rear lights’ transparent lenses.

The Vision M Next is a plug-in hybrid combining two electric motors (one at each axle) with a turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine. The Power PHEV drive system offers the choice between electric all-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive. System output of 600 hp will be good for 0-100 km/h in three seconds and a top speed of 300 km/h. There is also a Boost+ mode that delivers extra power at the push of a button. The targeted pure electric range is 100 km.

Of course, these are just targets for now, as this visually arresting, carbonfibre-bodied two-door coupe is a Vision car. As folks who love cars and driving, these are dark days (never mind the battering the internal combustion engine is getting, autonomous cars will put to bed the very act of driving), so we should be happy that BMW has a vision for driving, and a vision for M.

“The BMW Vision M Next provides a glimpse into the future of sporty driving. Where the BMW Vision iNext illustrated how autonomous driving is set to transform life on board our vehicles, the BMW Vision M Next demonstrates how state-of-the-art tech can also make the experience of driving yourself purer and more emotionally engaging,” says Adrian van Hooydonk, senior VP of BMW Group Design.

The long-demanded successor to the 41-year-old M1 supercar is expected to debut at the Frankfurt motor show in September, and the dedicated M flagship sports car is set to hit BMW showrooms early next decade. What do you think? And do you prefer this or the M1 Hommage Concept from 2008?