The first reviews of the production i8 and i3 are finally out, and the styling really cleans up nicely without the trademark blue disguise wrap worn by the prototypes over the past two years.

The other shock of shocks? The first drive impressions of the i8 are coming back as highly favorable, with great interactivity on the limit and track poise beyond any current EV.

This is huge news for the future of the Ultimate Driving Machine as we know it. The slow creep of isolation and refinement is becoming problematic on the M6 and other fast Bimmers, so the worry has been that adding electricity to the mix will further isolate and dull the experience.

Everyone can sigh a breathe of relief. Both BMW i models run a 50:50 weight balance, carbon-fiber tub with alloy crash cradles. These are all extremely advanced designs shared between the i8 hybrid supercar and the i3. So, where does a potential i3 M fit in the pricing and technology mix for the future BMW i range?

With the i3 and i8 arriving at American BMW dealers together as 2015 models, all systems are go for the global roll-out of these production models. The price gap might raise an eyebrow or two: from about $43,000 for the i3 up to $135,000 for the i8.

This exclusive preview brings the first renderings of a performance middle ground for 2016: the BMW i3 M.

Click past the jump for this amazing three-pack of renderings that show the potential style of the 2016 BMW i3 M.

  • Year:
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
  • Transmission:
    6-Speed Auto (Est.)
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    233 (Est.)
  • Torque @ RPM:
    210 (Est.)
  • Displacement:
    1.5 L (Est.)
  • 0-60 time:
    4.6 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    155 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:

2016 BMW i3 M - Exclusive TopSpeed Styling Preview

2016 BMW i3 M - image 523182

The i8 is extremely low and lithe, almost like a modern Supra in black paint with no camouflage on its panels. The striptease of the i3 has gone the other way: will it be putting its clothes back on soon?

The pillar and door layout is a mess and chiefly to blame for the frumpy profile image. A boxy road graphic does not help things, and the dipping rear window is straight off the Honda Odyssey. In profile, the pumpkin-colored i3 in the BMW press images looks like a mix between the 2005 Mercedes-Benz Bionic box-fish concept van and the hideous Smart Forfour.

This is not good news for people hoping that the BMW i solution would be the definitive Anti-Prius of the EV world. Alas, that role seems to still rest comfortably with Tesla’s supercar-fast Model S.

In styling the nose and tail, however, the BMW i3 has much more potential. As these renderings show, the BMW i3 M is likely to adopt the latest M4-aping grille ductwork and air foils in the lower bumper. A free-standing carbon-fiber splitter is likely, along with additional cooling square footage for the additional turbo intercooler and battery radiators this performance model will require.

The nose of this exclusive rendering is quite refreshing, and lowers the perceived hood height and also the roofline slightly. A conservative white paint colors all the panels, which is very likely in BMW M’s loudest exclusive colors. The traditional i3 will be more comfortable in earth tones and exposed carbon-fiber accents.

The biggest thanks for this newly fashionable nose are the hugely stretched fenders and track widths. The real genius of the BMW i manufacturing process is finally starting to make sense, as BMW announced all the production specifications.

Traditional car bodies are stamped from metal and these huge industrial presses are about $400 million per panel shape. That explains why many cars get a new plastic bumper appearance at facelift time - and not any drastic changes to the hard points.

Carbon-fiber does not need these giant steel presses to be made into new shapes. It just needs a new mold or form, costing a fraction of the previous fixed manufacturing costs.

All this is great news for drastic potential M upgrades for the i3 - and also the i8. So huge fenders look great and will help on the track. But what about the skinny 155/70R19 tires that the i3 wears from the factory?

The huge new fenders allow a track stretch and also more than double the tire thickness of the base models. Based on the sticky new Bridgestone Potenza tires custom-developed for the BMW i8, the i3 M should have looks and the grip to hang with the big boys.

Drivetrain, Suspension and Brakes

2016 BMW i3 M - image 523183

Taking acceleration and driving pleasure totally out of the equation for a moment, the technical changes to the i3 in transition to i3 M are significant. Perhaps even more so than with a standard Motorsport model. No, the i3 M doesn’t has to double the maximum top speed of the 335i one rung below it, but the i3’s current max is only a yawning 93 mph.

A full engine, battery and re-gen architecture swap is likely to be needed to bring the i3’s boxy-fish shape near the i8’s 155 mph top speed. As insignificant as a top speed like this is for a hybrid car, it will be an important moral victory for the engineers and also the buying public.

There are a few possible scenarios to increase the performance to BMW M levels in the future i3.

2016 BMW i3 M - TopSpeed Powertrain Matrix:

Scenario 2016 BMW i3 M - Power Upgrade Strategy Advantages Disadvantages Likelihood Odds out of 10
Software, electronics management Upgraded Software Mapping: maintains existing i3 Giga World battery/gasoline engine setup, but brings extra levels of electronic settings to temporarily increase performance. Something like the "M" button on the steering wheel of the traditional M5 to call up max attack Affordable, offers personalization and custom programming, minimal price premium limited track ability with extra-short max power from the batteries More ideal for a possible M Sport package than the full upgrade 2
Battery capacity upgrade Larger battery pack of the same design as the i3, but with selected high-voltage components from i8 Quick to market, minimal price jump, same gasoline twin-cylinder generator Remapping all the power management and charge architecture a long process Not likely 4
Full i8 Battery and EV module swap Brings supercar performance Rapid and scary buzz bomb, no Elk tests please Far too expensive and compromised Not likely 2
i8 engine implant, i3 battery Better performance and range, can stretch existing i3 batteries with better energy re-generation potential, cheap versus batteries or super capacitors Huge leap in range and track performance, affordable, gasoline intake not a problem for M car fans packaging of the turbo triple in trunk of i3 Most likely 7

2016 BMW i3 M - Projected Powertrain Layout:

2016 BMW i3 M - image 523178
  • Rear-engine, Rear-drive
  • Rear axle mounted electric motor
  • Rear axle mounted gasoline engine

2016 BMW i3 M - Mechanical Projections vs. Production 2015 i3:

Model 2015 BMW i3 Production Car 2016 BMW i3 M Projections
Gasoline Engine Optional 0.65-liter Twin-Cylinder BMW TwinPower Turbo 1.5-Liter Three-Cylinder
Engine technology BMW eDrive technology: hybrid synchronous motor with integrated power electronics, charger and generator mode for recuperation BMW eDrive technology: hybrid synchronous motor with integrated power electronics, charger and 1.5-liter I-3 generator mode for recuperation, est
Output (hp) 170 233, est
Torque (Ft-Lb) 184 212, est
Rated voltage 360V 360V, est
Energy capacity (kWh) 22 28, est
Storage technology Lithium-ion Lithium-ion, est
Drive concept Rear-wheel drive Rear-wheel drive, est

2016 BMW i3 M - Performance Projections:

Model 2015 BMW i3 Production Car 2016 BMW i3 M Projections
Power-to-weight ratio (hp/lb) 14.31 18.31, est
Acceleration 0–60 mph 7 Sec. 4.5 Sec., est
Acceleration 0–35 mph 3.5 Sec. 2.9 Sec., est
Acceleration 50 - 75 mph 5.4 Sec. 4.4 Sec, est
Top speed 93 mph 155 mph, est

2016 BMW i3 M - Efficiency Projections:

Range in everyday driving (Comfort mode) 130 – 160 km (81 - 99 miles) 130 – 160 km (81 - 99 miles), est
Range in ECO PRO+ mode 170 - 200 km (105 - 123 miles) 170 - 200 km (105 - 123 miles), est
Range In Comfort mode with Range Extender Approx. 300 km (180 miles) Approx. 300 km (180 miles), est
Charging times (for 80% charge) < 30 min. at 50 kW fast charge to 8 h for 100% at domestic socket < 30 min. at 50 kW fast charge to 8 h for 100% at domestic socket, est

Pricing and Availability

2016 BMW i3 M - image 523181

The i3 M shown here is a speculative rendering created by TopSpeed to envision a potential future performance variant of this eco-friendly urban machine. For comparison, the 2015 BMW i8 is officially priced at $136,000 for the U.S. market, so there is plenty of room for the i3 M to add a price premium over the standard i3 in loaded Giga World trim.

Pricing MSRP Incl. destination charges
2015 BMW i3 Mega World $42,275
2016 BMW i3 M $58,595, est


2016 BMW i3 M - image 523180

There’s quite a bit of shock value to the BMW i project, certainly far beyond the layered styling and carbon-fiber from Washington state, blah. As the auto community
really wraps its head around the BMW i setup’s flexibility, these cars will be quite influential.

So, BMW nails another project. No shock there. These EV designs show that BMW has a long-term vision for a new generation of hybrid driving machines. Priorities:

  • A rear-drive bias, even with an AWD hybrid setup
  • If there is less power, lighten everything and run 19-inch wheels with 155-series tires (about half a 328i’s paw print)
  • Efficiency and EV benefits are great, but 10 laps of the Green Hell is a must-have feature

Perfect balance in terms of weight distribution is coming from all over the place. Long gone are the days of a front-engine, rear-drive BMW default. But with the core values intact, BMW M is poised for a lightning bolt of new ‘juiced’ models in the future.

  • Leave it
    • Window graphic dip at door line is too dull for a BMW M car
    • Price and sales profitability still years down road, but brace yourself for the i1, i2, i4, i5, i6, i7 and - maybe - even the the “XIXXIIX5 eDrive”
    • Bring on the future
What do you think?

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