Byton M-Byte: high-tech electric SUV could come to the UK

The display is no touch operated, instead it is designed to be primarily controlled via an 7.0in screen located in the centre of the steering wheel or a 8.0in tablet mounted between the two front seats, but can also be controlled by voice or gesture control. It is covered by a layer of shatter-proof glass to minimise risk of injury in a collision.

Byton CTO David Twohig reiterated the development and production cost involved in such as screen, noting that it’s “automotive grade – meaning it has to last more than 10 years, is designed to cope with shocks of up to 2G, and extreme temperatures”. 

Other defining features of the interior are a flat floor (made possible by the lack of a transmission tunnel), a floating dashboard, rotating front seats and a comprehensive list of personalisation options. It also features autonomous functions in the Level 2 category, though Twohig railed against the over-simplification the levels create, stating the M-Byte is “probably between 2.5 and 2.99”.

Some tech features from the concept, such as facial recognition for the doors and cameras replacing wing mirrors, have been removed for production. For the former, Twohig claims the tech “doesn’t offer anything to the customer” to justify the significant development cost, while the latter is “made difficult by regulations”. 

The M-Byte range opens with the 72kWh entry-level model that’s driven by a single, rear-mounted motor producing 268bhp and capable of 360 miles on the WLTP test cycle. An optional larger-capacity battery offers a range of up to 460 miles. 

The range-topping four-wheel-drive variant has a 95kWh battery that yields a 435-mile range as standard and uses a motor on each axle for a power output of 402bhp.  There is no air suspension or adaptive dampers, instead Twohig insisted his team of chassis engineers focused on creating a comfortable ride “the good old-fashioned way” rather than trying to offer a compromise between sportiness and comfort. Twohig admits this allowed development costs to be spent elsewhere. 

All versions of the M-Byte are capable of 150kW rapid charging and can therefore be topped up to 80% capacity from empty in as little as 35 minutes. Byton is working with suppliers globally to ensure a 22kW home wallbox installation is ready for deliveries. 

Byton claims to have taken more than 50,000 reservations worldwide and has already subjected the M-Byte to a number of test processes, including stringent crash tests to US and EU standards. The pre-ordering process for US and European customers, however, will not open until early next year. There will not be traditional dealers, rather a handful of showrooms in regions served by a distribution partner. 

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