► BMW i4 electric car spied
► Inspired by i Vision Dynamics
► Tesla Model 3 rival due 2021
Remember the BMW i Vision Dynamics concept car at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show? We said at the time that it would sire the new BMW i4 - and here's the proof: spy photos of what we believe to be a prototype for the production i4 electric car.
It's the first expansion of the BMW i family, started by the innovative i3 city car and i8 sports car. Munich is desperately ramping up its electric car ambitions and the i4 will move the sub-brand into a more high-volume, family-friendly part of the market.
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But the BMW i4 looks just like a 4-series Gran Coupe!
Indeed it does. But that's what all too frequently happens to brave concept cars, remember. And once you strip away the disguise, insiders promise the i4 will keep the BMW i vibe alive and kicking, even if the proportions look remarkably traditional. That's what packaging four adults and luggage does to a design.
The sleek, low-slung i Vision Dynamics concept from 2017 (below) was a four-door 4-series Gran Coupe-style family car previewing the third i model. BMW said it was capable of 0-62mph in four seconds, a top speed of 120mph and an electric, zero-emissions range of up to 373 miles - figures we'd wager sound remarkably feasible for a production EV two years away from showrooms.
It is unclear at this stage whether the new BMW i4 will be built around the group's CLAR architecutre or a separate platform; we know that the batteries are accommodated along the floor within the wheelbase, which explains the slightly raised ride height visible in these spy photos. The cells are mounted low for better handling, and the body is lifted to maintain decent accommodation.
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This won't be a bespoke carbonfibre chassis, as with the i3 and i8; instead expect a sprinkling of lightweight aluminum and maybe a CFRP roof, like on an M4, to slice out weight but keep a lid on costs.
Shorn of the disguise adorning this camouflaged prototype, insiders hint that the production version will keep a distinct i family face, with unique kidney grilles and the door handles are said to be touch-operated, rather than manual affairs. The concept (below) had flush door handles too.
Note also the faked exhaust pipes built into the camo at the rear, to put our spy photographers off the scent. Although this is rather undone by the 'Electric vehicle' stickers required by law in Germany in case of a high-voltage accident!
Will it really be called i4?
If BMW is to maintain its current naming strategy, it makes sense that the production model would be called i4, like the combustion-engined 4-series Gran Coupe BMW is linking it to. Munich has house-kept its naming conventions rather better than Audi and Mercedes, many would argue. Sticking to existing logic would be a neat solution.
The BMW i4 is an electric car that’s designed to be easy to own and a blast to drive. And it’s going to form part of a fast-growing family of electric BMWs. There will be a four-strong hybrid or battery line-up by 2021, with as many as 25 by 2025.
Adrian van Hooydonk, the group design chief, is confident that most of the lines and creases will carry across from concept to production car. ‘In design terms, the concept is based on the Vision Next 100 that we showed in 2016,’ he told CAR magazine. ‘We still have a few things to do, but I’m pretty optimistic that we can make what’s on the show stand a reality.’
The tech specs
The production-spec i4 saloon will use two electric motors, all-wheel drive and torque vectoring. There’s also potential for rear-wheel steering and semi-active air suspension. It’s likely that BMW will follow Tesla’s lead in offering different versions with a choice of power outputs. This car is aimed squarely at the Tesla Model 3, after all...
In fact, the hotter version could even carry an M performance division badge. ‘The i Vision Dynamics is a car with a broad remit, so I think that will be the time when we see certain blends of BMW i and M’, said Dick Arnold, head of product management at BMW i. ‘Now we have M with a clear picture and we have BMW i with its electrification. Over the years there will certainly be an overlap – no doubt about it.’
Robert Irlinger, head of the BMW i division told us: ‘There will be M cars with kinds of electrification in the future. Is there a clash between the i and M brands? Of course not. There will be a blend, or some co-operation in future, because electrification brings benefits – full torque from the beginning, for example.’
Sounds great! When can I buy the BMW i4?
Arnold pointed to the i3 and i8 timeframe for a rough idea: the EfficientDynamics Vision concept from 2011 ended up being the i8 in less than three years. On that basis, a customer-ready i Vision Dynamics could be in showrooms as early as 2020, explaining our new spy photos of a prototype on a transporter.
The i Vision Dynamics is far from the only electric BMW in the pipeline. As part of the group’s plan to provide 25 electrified cars by 2025, with 12 being fully electric, BMW i has a lot on its plate over the next eight years. ‘It’s sometimes smart not to talk too much about your future plans’, says Arnold, but we have a pretty good idea. An electric Mini hatch is already set to be built in Oxford for 2019. An electric X3 SUV will follow a year later.
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