Adding some sport to Bimmer’s electric cube

BMW launched the i3 electric errand-runner in 2014, and recently introduced a new iteration called the i3s at the Frankfurt Motor Show. This latest “s” version is sportier than the standard model, gaining more power and extra handling capabilities, which got us thinking – where would this sort of evolution eventually lead? Would (could?) BMW turn the i3 into a bona-fide sports machine, rather than just an eco model with 15 extra ponies and a lower stance? If so, what would something like that look like? To answer those questions, we gazed into our crystal call, drew up a rendering, and did a little speculation. The end result is this – the BMW i3 M, a true motorsport performance box with specs to back the badge. Try 0-to-60 mph in less than five seconds and tail-happy handling dynamics, all with that i-branded eco friendliness when you’re ready to dial back the aggression.

So yeah, it’s just a rendering for now, but why not? After all, BMW is no stranger to the world of high-speed hybrids – just look at the i8, the success of which most likely prompted further discussion on the topic amongst BMW’s top brass. Add in copious rumors that such a thing is indeed under development, plus the fact that actually producing this thing wouldn’t be terribly difficult for the brand, and we’d say odds are split 50/50 yay to nay. Read on for our speculative take.

Continue reading to learn more about the BMW i3 M.

Exterior

2020 BMW i3 M
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Overall, the BMW i3 M gets the same bubbly exterior styling as its non-M’d counterpart. The look is angular and chunky, with tons of little details offset in contrasting colors.

The colors we picked for the rendering are black and white, which makes it easy to visually pick out individual exterior features. Starting in front, we find a revised fascia, which ditches the rounded frumpiness of the old i3 in favor of a longer lower bumper and hard edges. There are three intakes here, with triangular-shaped intakes in the sides and a larger intake underneath, all of which get a black mesh covering. A lower splitter element helps add a little front-end downforce and directs the air to where it needs to be. Above the bumper is the traditional kidney grille, which utilizes a blue and chrome surround to denote the car’s eco friendliness, plus the requisite “M” badge as a nod to its sporting intentions. The kidney is bookended by the usual aggressive headlight units, which get U-shaped daytime running lights around the perimeter of the housings. The hood is finished in a glossy black, the shape of which pulls the eye rearwards towards the A-pillars.

2020 BMW i3 M
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Above the bumper is the traditional kidney grille, which utilizes a blue and chrome surround to denote the car’s eco friendliness, plus the requisite “M” badge as a nod to its sporting intentions.

Moving into the flanks, we find modest fender flares, once again in a glossy black color. The front fenders also get a V-shaped vent, similar to other M models seen before. The top half of the vehicle continues the black coloring, which gives it a sort of “floating” appearance, which is similar to the standard model. The side skirts continue with a black strake, which enhances a visual sense of forward lean to it, plus a bit of blue embellishment that adds a nice splash of color, similar to the i8. The side view mirrors were also reshaped to offer a more aggressive look.

In back, we find a modest trailing edge roof spoiler, once again in black. We would expect the i3 M’s hatch to be finished in black, with the taillights offering a similar shape as the headlight housings.

We think it’s a solid combination of cues, pulling heavily from both the BMW i8 and existing M products. Check it out –

2015 BMW i8 High Resolution Exterior
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2015 BMW M3 High Resolution Exterior
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Note: BMW i3 (standard model) pictured on the left, BMW M3 pictured on the right.

Overall, we think the updates add a good deal of much-needed aggression to the i3, which becomes even more important when framing it as a performance vehicle.

We’d also expect BMW to offer the i3 M with a large collection of optional aero enhancements and carbon fiber exterior pieces. Stuff like carbon fiber side view mirror covers, a carbon fiber rear wing, carbon fiber front splitter, carbon fiber wheel arch extensions, and maybe even a graphics package for a heavier-hitting visual impact should make the list.

Finally, Bimmer would most likely equip LEDs for the lighting front to back, while large 19-inch wheels (the option for 20-inch wheels will be offered) fill the corners.

Interior

BMW Unveils 2018 i3 and i3s High Resolution Interior
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Note: standard BMW i3 pictured here.

Getting in and out of the BMW i3 M will be the same procedure as the standard model. The doors will split down the middle, with the front doors opening forward and the rear doors opening towards the tail, providing a good amount of space to settle into the front seats or crawl onto the back bench. This ease of ingress and egress will be upped thanks to the lack of a B-pillar, which is a testament to the i3’s impressive chassis rigidity.

Once you situate yourself in the cabin, you’ll be met with a fun and funky layout. First and foremost will be an upgraded steering wheel, which will get a flat-bottom and multi-function design, plus the requisite M badging in the right spots and handy grips at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions. The dash will incorporate copious horizontal design schemes, and mount a digital display in a tall, central position. The central tunnel will get additional buttons and toggle switches, plus a rotary knob to control the infotainment system. The seats will gain additional lateral support, and come with the option for even sportier sitters if desired.

First and foremost will be an upgraded steering wheel, which will get a flat-bottom and multi-function design, plus the requisite M badging in the right spots and handy grips at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions.

While not quite as spacey and futuristic as the i8, the i3 M should still be a pretty nice place to be. Also expect copious amounts of M components inside, both optional and standard. That means additional M branding (door sill plates, etc.), and faux carbon fiber for the trim (dash, door panels, etc.). High-end contrast stitching and Alcantara upholstery will be included as well.

Of course, being an i model, there should be the option for sustainable interior materials as well. Packages for green stuff like recycled materials and renewables will help the i3 M keep its eco cred, if that’s the sort of thing you’re looking for.

Of course, being an i model, there should be the option for sustainable interior materials as well.

In terms of technology, the i3 M will also get the very latest tech BMW has on offer. These include stuff like parking assist, front collision warning, active lane keep assist, active cruise control, and the like, not to mention gesture control inside the cabin. Apple CarPlay will be there to support your smartphone, while the display mounted high on the dash will measure in at 10.25 inches.

Drivetrain

2017 BMW i3 94 AH High Resolution Drivetrain
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Note: standard i3 drivetrain and powertrain pictured here.

The current standard i3 model comes equipped with a variety of different powertrain options. The first is the i3 60 Ah, which gets a 22-kWh lithium-ion battery, while the i3 94 Ah gets a 33-kWh lithium-ion battery. All that juice makes its way to a single electric motor in the rear, which drives the rear axle with as much as 125 kW (or 168 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque). Properly applied, it’s enough to do the 0-to-60 mph run in 7.2 seconds, while top speed clocks in at 93 mph. The recently unveiled i3s is tuned for a bit more output, bumping it up to 184 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque, shaving a little time off the acceleration figure in the process. Finally, the i3 can be had with the option for a two-cylinder gas-powered internal combustion engine. Displacement for the ICE is rated at 647 cc’s, which adds substantially to the car’s range

So what about the i3 M?

For starters, we’re thinking the powertrain will pull heavily from the BMW i8, ditching the two-cylinder range extender in favor of a three-cylinder ICE as standard. That’s right – go with the M, and you’re hybrid no matter what.

We’re thinking the powertrain will pull heavily from the BMW i8, ditching the two-cylinder range extender in favor of a three-cylinder ICE as standard. About 230 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque would fit well with a car that’s this lightweight

This inline three-cylinder will once again get mounted in the rear, with the displacement coming in at roughly 1.5 liters. Power will also see a substantial increase, and we’re thinking as much as 230 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque would fit well with a car this lightweight. That much muscle would propel the BMW i3 M from 0-to-60 mph in less than 5 seconds, while the top speed would look something like 130 mph, which is far above the sub-100 mph top speed of the current i3.

Despite the increased power and faster acceleration, the BMW i3 M should also offer some half-decent all-electric range, with about 90 miles of local emissions-free motoring possible, if desired.

What’s more, the powertrain will offer that classic electrified instant torque, which will make it an absolute pleasure to drive. Just stamp the long pedal, and the little speed cube will squat and go, no fuss involved whatsoever.

Chassis And Handling

2020 BMW i3 M
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While it’s true that M division cars have been getting a bit soft around the edges over the last few years, I’d argue the Bavarian skunk works still has the know-how to make the BMW i3 a stellar handler.

While the current model tips the scales at a few hundred pounds under the 3,000-pound mark, we’d wager the larger ICE and more powerful electric motor would inevitably bump the i3 M up to at least 3,000 pounds. Of course, the i3 M would retain the same carbon fiber tub as the non-M variants, utilizing the identical carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) material wherever possible.

Utilizing the identical carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) material wherever possible, the weight would mostly get centered over the rear, but approach that magical 50:50 front/back weight distribution that’s so desirable amongst sporty vehicles.

The weight would mostly get centered over the rear, but approach that magical 50:50 front/back weight distribution that’s so desirable amongst sporty vehicles. Of course, with a RWD, rear-engine configuration, that’s to be expected, and with the proper suspension set-up, the i3 M could be magnificent in the corners. Furthermore, the battery will be stashed underneath the floor of the vehicle, keeping a lot of the pounds low enough to maintain relatively low amounts of body roll.

Regardless, we’d expect the BMW i3 M to come equipped with much wider tires, as the standard i3 gets super skinny eco rubber. By contrast, the M version will get a wider track and tons more grip. The stance will also be lower over the large wheels, and there’s likely to be multiple driving modes to sharpen the throttle, tighten the steering, and other such sporting features. Finally, we’d also expect the option for a sport suspension package, plus bigger brakes.

Prices

2020 BMW i3 M
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The current BMW i3 starts at $42,400, and can range as high as $48,300 when adding in the range-extender internal combustion engine. If BMW was to go about offering an M version, we’d suspect that number would rise substantially – up to $60,000, give or take, which would represent a $20,000 rise over the current entry-level model. Throw in a few pricey options (M exterior package, sportier suspension package, etc.), and that number could go even higher.

Competition

Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4 Hybrid

2017 Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 High Resolution Exterior
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Small, quirky, and chic – these are the things that make the Countryman hybrid special. This is really an ideal competitor for the i3 M, as it’s not only relatively similar in terms of body shape and size, but it’s got the same BMW gloss as well (BMW owns Mini, in case you were unaware). Not only that, but this small hatch also rocks the same 1.5-liter turbo three-cylinder as the i8. The run to 62 mph takes 7.6 seconds thanks to 221 horsepower, while upwards of 26 miles of all electric range helps it get around without gasoline.

Read our full review on the Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4 Hybrid.

Tesla Model 3

2018 Tesla Model 3 High Resolution Exterior
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2018 Tesla Model 3 High Resolution Exterior
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Yes, we’re well aware that the Model 3 is all electric, all the time, and not a hybrid, but this segment isn’t exactly overflowing with options when it comes to competition. Not only that, but the Model 3 has pretty much established itself as the go-to affordable compact when it comes to green-intentioned driving. Thanks to its large lithium-ion battery pack, this thing can go upwards of 310 miles per charge, and hit the 60 mph benchmark in as little as 5.1 seconds. It’s cheaper too, priced at $35,000 before incentives. Of course, you need to factor in the convenience factor as well, given new orders take as long as 18 months to reach customers, plus the fact that charging the batteries takes hours to reach 100-percent capacity.

Read our full review on the Tesla Model 3.

Conclusion

2020 BMW i3 M Computer Renderings and Photoshop Exclusive Renderings Exterior
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While a BMW i3 M might seem like a long shot now, that could definitely change in the not-too-distant future. You see, BMW is doubling down on its electric and hybrid investments, and while that might seem a bit disturbing to those customers accustomed to the “Ultimate Driving Machine,” it’s highly doubtful the Bavarians will completely disregard their performance past in the name of eco friendliness. Sure, efficiency will get a bump and engines will get electrified, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun along the way.

BMW is doubling down on its electric and hybrid investments, but it’s highly doubtful the Bavarians will completely disregard their performance past in the name of eco friendliness.

We think a BMW i3 M is a great example of that balance. A car like this would be a mix of efficiency and power, offering sharp handling and comfort, all without burning too much petrol along the way. Yes, it’s expensive, but hey – it’s a Bimmer. That should be expected. Will customers feel the same way? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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References

BMW i3

BMW Unveils 2018 i3 and i3s Exterior High Resolution
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Read our full review on the 2018 BMW i3.

BMW M3

2015 BMW M3 High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2017 BMW M3.

BMW i8

2015 BMW i8 High Resolution Exterior
- image 522684

Read our full review on the 2017 BMW i8.

2017 Tesla Model S Exterior
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Read more electric car news.

What do you think?
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