Electric and hybrid cars continue making their way across every manufacturer’s lineup as restrictions on emissions become stricter each and every year. BMW has already jumped on this bandwagon with the introduction of the 2015 i8 and 2015 i3. According to a new report from CAR Magazine, however, the Bavarian automaker is set to unveil a more traditional, three-box i model that it will call the i5 or the i7.

Rumored to arrive in 2018 and rival the immensely successful Model S, the i5/i7 will roll in boasting a gasoline powerplant and a pair of electric motors. Though it seems like a valiant effort, can a range-extended EV like the i5/i7 really challenge the Tesla Model S for alternative-fuel supremacy?

Click past the jump to read my full preview of the i5/i7 to find out.

Exterior

2018 BMW i5 Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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The BMW i5/i7 will be released shortly after the next-gen 5 Series hits the market (around 2018), so it will likely share the new 5’s Cluster Architecture (CLAR). This is a modular architecture that allows BMW to utilize it in a number of different-sized vehicles with various drivetrains, including the smaller 3 Series, and various hybrids and EVs.

In terms of looks, it’s hard to say what direction Bimmer will go with the i5/i7. In our rendering above, you can see that we expect it to carry cues from Bimmer’s big three-box sedans with a bit of the i8 mixed in. Laser headlights will likely be one of the highlights of this new model, and hopefully they will be approved for use in the U.S. by that point.

Though our rendering may give you an idea of what to expect in from the i5/i7, you may not have to wait too long to see the real deal, as CAR Magazine claims that a concept version may make an appearance at the 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show.

Interior

Given the i5/i7 won’t be on the market until 2018, it’s hard to say what new tech gadgets and gizmos will be around, and what the newest design trends will be. As with all Bimmers, look for high-end materials in the i5/i7, but also look for plenty of renewables, like synthetic leather and recycled plastics.

With this being a PHEV, look for there to be plenty of monitors to keep an eye on the juice and the fuel economy.

Drivetrain

CAR Magazine claims to have some inside info on the drivetrain in the i5/i7. It claims that the new model will features a four-cylinder gasoline engine that puts out 245 horsepower, and a pair of electric motors. The front motor will put down a reported 204 horsepower while the rear motor lays out an extra 95 ponies. According to CAR this drivetrain will combine to produce 544 horsepower and an 80-mile range on battery power alone.

While its EV range may not be anywhere near that of Tesla’s, its horsepower is right in line, so it can definitely do battle in that ring at least.

Prices

Pricing is tough to pinpoint this early in the game, but expect the base model to undercut the $70k Tesla Model S 60kW model and range to the $125,000 mark with added options, according to CAR.

Competition

Tesla Model S

2015 Tesla Model S Exterior
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The 2015 Tesla Model S is basically unchanged from last year... Well, except for the 691-horsepower P85D model!

The Tesla Model S is clearly the main target of the new BMW i5/i7, but they are hard to compare because they are drastically different in terms of propulsion. The Model S is full electric, with power ranging from the 380-horsepower 60 kWh model to 691 ponies from the P85D model. The price range is just as broad too, with the base Model S starting at $71,070 and the P85D model starting at $105,670.

Unlike the BMW, which will have a gasoline generator backing up the electric motors, the Model S can only travel 208 to 253 miles on a single charge. Fortunately, Tesla’s Supercharger network is expanding each year, making driving it long distances less of an issue. Sort of.

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid

2015 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The Panamera S E-Hybrid is likely the ultimate in-between rig for those who want opulence but also care for the environment. It’s 3.0-liter V-6 combines with a 95-horse electric motor to put out 416 horsepower and 435 pound-feet of twist. This gets the big sedan to 60 mph in just 5.2 seconds while returning 50 mpg-e. On top of that, the Panamera S E-Hybrid can travel up to 15 miles without the aid of its gasoline powerplant.

This Porsche hybrid checks in at a base price of $96,100, but it quickly soars to over $100k with only a few popular options added in.

Conclusion

More fuel-efficient cars are great, but I can’t help but wonder if BMW is doing the right thing. It seems as if even by 2015 standards the i5/i7 sounds behind the times. When it debuts in 2018, it may already be a dinosaur compared to where Tesla will likely be at that point. Why BMW cannot come up with a full-electric powertrain that can deliver exciting performance without the aid of a gasoline engine baffles me. Sure, the 80-mile range is great, but by 2018, the Chevy Volt could be at that point too. I think BMW may want to push things back a little and work on increasing the range of the i5/i7.

  • Leave it
    • * By 2018 it may be outdated
    • * Can’t match the P85D
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