Think about everything BMW stands for, and the 2014 i3 electric “Mega City Vehicle” manages to shift most of your of your paradigms. It’s a tall, narrow, upright hatchback that’s powered by an electric motor. It’s designed for ultimate efficiency, implementing a carbon fiber and aluminum structure instead of a traditional steel unibody to make the cut at 2,700 pounds. Shockingly, when it goes into production in November, it will be the least-sporty vehicle BMW makes. And that’s saying something with a 0 to 60 time expected to be in the 7.0-second range.
A BMW representative told us that the company can afford to diverge from the strict mission of “Ultimate Driving Machine” because it has gotten so large and it needs to have a brand to exercise new ideas and try out new technologies. Hence, why the i3 was created, with the “i” standing for “innovation” and “intelligence.” It will be followed by the BMW i8 electric sports car, scheduled to debut in production form sometime in 2014.
But prodding around with sources at the BMW i3 introduction event in New York City, we were assured that the BMW i3 wouldn’t just be a Nissan Leaf for the affluent, as the company says it is keeping driving enjoyment Job One with the electric car. If that weren’t enough of an assurance, however, we were told that there could be a sportier version on the horizon shortly.
“Think if it as a BMW i3 Sport,” one source who asked not to be named said. Already, BMW is planning a sportier suspension setup with shorter, stiffer springs and a more powerful electric motor that could shoot the electric car to 60 in the five- or six-second range. All it would take is programming the electric motor to offer more than its current 170 horsepower. The compromise would be a shortened driving range in EV mode, as the BMW i3 only has a relatively small 22-kilowatt-hour battery pack with an estimated 80- to 100-mile range. BMW’s engineers are working on a compromise to keep electric range up and weight down, as its battery pack in the car hits the scales at about 500 pounds.
In addition, the just-debuted 2014 BMW i3 won’t allow drivers to completely defeat its stability control system, which is not advantageous for aggressive driving. “We’re working on that,” says our source, adding that a proposed i3 Sport model would be more performance-focused.
We were given no timeline for when a proposed BMW i3 Sport would come out or what it would be called. The only thing we know is that it won’t be an M Division performance model.
“M and i are two separate brands,” says BMW board member Peter Schwartzenbauer in a separate interview. He added that while the two brands may end up sharing technologies like lightweight carbon fiber construction, they don’t have the same sporting mission and won’t be intermingling with one another.