BMW will celebrate a century of doing business next year, and to mark the triple-digit milestone, the automaker is rumored to be working on a beefed-up version of its i8 hybrid sports car. It’s believed the new i8 will bring with it more power, a quicker 0-to-60 time, a more hardcore interior, and a new exterior look.

The speculation stems from a recent post made by the British publication AutoExpress, which cites an unidentified company insider. The rumors also echo those coming from a report made late last year by the U.K.-based publication CAR

While the i8’s stiff, lightweight composite chassis and hybrid drivetrain is supposedly capable of handling a buff of up to 300 extra horsepower, the new i8’s power increase wouldn’t be that extreme. Bimmer’s engineers will most likely replace the current twin-turbo, three-cylinder gas engine, which produces 231 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, with a more potent 2.0-liter four-cylinder unit. The new ICE would chuck out over 300 horsepower, which would boost total output (when combined with the electric motor) to roughly 450 horsepower. 

A sub-four-second 0-to-60 time is the target acceleration spec, as compared to the current vehicle’s 4.2 seconds to 60. While the larger four-banger engine will add heft, BMW will most likely preserve the car’s current curb weight of 3,285 pounds by using unpainted carbon fiber body panels and a stripped-out interior that eliminates the ’barely there anyway’ rear seats. 

Finally, the new i8 will probably boast a revamped exterior, with a wider and lower body, more aggressive aero and ground effects, and bigger wheels and brakes.

Continue reading for the full story.

Why it matters

CAR broke this news last year, saying the new “hero car” flagship might be dubbed the i8S and would hit showrooms by the end of 2017. What’s more, the report states the new coupe would bring with it so many bespoke parts it could almost be considered a new model. There are reportedly two engine options on the table – a twin-turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 320 horsepower (as backed by the AutoExpress post) and a 3.0-liter straight-six with nearly 480 horsepower. Like AutoExpress, CAR is also saying that target acceleration times include a 3.5-second 0-to-60.

The big question is whether we’ll see the reemergence of BMW’s iconic mid-engine M1 supercar, and whether or not it will be infused with i8-derived hybrid technology.

 

The big question is whether we’ll see the reemergence of BMW’s iconic mid-engine M1 supercar, and whether or not it will be infused with i8-derived hybrid technology. 

So far, BMW has been doing a bit of back and forth on the matter. Back in 2013, the company’s head of technology communications, Cypselus von Frakenberg, told CarAdvice at the Frankfurt Auto Show that the i8 and i3 would not get M versions, saying: “It is separate – M and i. It’s two different sub-brands, but there will be no ‘M’ i-car in the future. One of the biggest stumbling blocks on building an M version of an i-car is the completely different engines both cars use on respective models,” adding, “It would be a difficult proposition to pull off and one that BMW believes isn’t necessary given how the company appears set on promoting the ‘i’ line as a separate brand that will complement the M division and the core BMW line.”

Afterwards, Friedrich Nitschke, the head of BMW’s M division, told CarAdvice last year that a new M1 could potentially utilize i tech, saying “[It’s] a question of capacity not a question of know-how,” later adding “With the i8 we showed what is going on and what we can do and it’s absolutely a new step and a step to the future and maybe we can take some parts and technology from ‘i’ [for M division] and vice-versa.”

Just a few weeks later, these statements were contradicted when Carsten Pries, BMW’s head of Product Management M, told Autovisie there would be no sportier version of the i8 and that a replacement for the M1 would not be based on the i8 platform.

Finally, earlier this year, Pries said that while an M version of the i8 or i3 was unlikely, an M model utilizing electric power was still a possibility, but one for a few years in the future, saying: “Would we like to do something else stand alone? You can wake up every one of the 550 employees [of M division] and they will tell you ‘yes’… Whether it’s commercially viable or sensible, that’s a different question.”

All told, it makes a lot of sense if BMW decided to offer a new M1 in the next few years with tech pulled from the i8.

 

So it would seem BMW is, at the very least, considering the matter. And as competing marques like Ferrari and Aston Martin go forward with their own expensive, low-volume models, you can bet Bimmer wants to get in on the action too.

All told, it makes a lot of sense if BMW decided to offer a new M1 in the next few years with tech pulled from the i8. 

First, there’s the timing: a hundred years in business is a rather momentous landmark for any company, let alone an automaker, and a new flagship would do well to mark the occasion.

Second, there’s the available technology. Heaps of praised were piled on the i8’s drivetrain, not to mention the advanced composite technologies it used, and if BMW wants a new supercar that simultaneously offers a nod to heritage and a snapshot of the future, an M1 hybrid with carbon-fiber everything would fit the bill. After all, before the i8, the M1 was the only mass-produced mid-engine car BMW ever made. 

Lastly, there’s the public perception. Reviewers loved the i8 when it was first released, and continue to commend its combination of sporting intent, green sensibilities and futuristic design. If BMW is looking for the right bones to build the new M1, the i8 has them. 

2015 BMW i8

2015 BMW i8 High Resolution Exterior
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We first got an inkling of the i8 at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show in the Vision Efficient Dynamics Concept, with the production version unveiled a few years later. Despite running a heavy hybrid drivetrain, the i8 uses materials like aluminum and carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) to keep curb weight at a minimum. Inside, BMW offers sustainable luxury in the form of recycled plastics and other resource-saving elements. Despite its impressive performance, the i8 still manages to claim an average fuel economy of 95 MPGe, with 22 miles of all-electric power available on a full charge.

Read our full review here.

Source: AutoExpress

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