BMW’S i division has got off to a bit of a slow start. The investment in launching this eco-friendly subbrand was huge, but despite critical acclaim – we’re big fans of the i8 supercar and the i3 won sister mag Wheels’ Car of the Year – punters haven’t been so enthusiastic.
BMW Australia CEO Marc Werner recently demanded the Australian government do more to encourage electric car ownership, but Tesla has shown there are plenty of electric-car fans out there, you just need to engage with them. And the best way to do that? Performance.
BMW has been keen to keep its i and M divisions separate, but why can’t the two work hand-in-hand?
After all, BMW announced last year that it would be working closely with the Andretti Formula E team.
The i3 looks great (bar its weird skinny wheels and tyres), drives well and is a realistic day-today proposition for electric car ownership, but it needs some pizazz to give it a bit of wow factor.
The opportunity exists for BMW to truly marry its ‘efficient dynamics’ and ‘ultimate driving machine’ and create the world’s first all-electric hot hatchback. M
The current i3’s 125kW/250Nm from its synchronous electric motor really isn’t going to cut it here. But what if we used two of them? Yep, in a similar move to Tesla’s dualmotor Model S, adding another motor to the i3 instantly turns it into a 250kW/500Nm all-wheel drive weapon. Now that’s interesting.
The beauty of instantly available electric torque is apparent in benchmark acceleration times and the i3 M is nipping at the heels of its German hot hatch rivals with a 4.4sec 0-100km/h sprint, though top speed is limited to 200km/h.
Range is a claimed 350km, or much less if you use the performance.
Unfortunately, the flip side of electric propulsion is that batteries are heavy, and despite its lightweight CFRP ‘Life’ module the i3 M weighs in at a hefty 1550kg, though weight distribution improves from 47:53 front-to-rear to a perfect 50:50.
The standard i3’s bicycle-like wheels and tyres aren’t going to cut it for a electric M, so new 20-inch lightweight wheels fill the guards wearing Pirelli P Zeros measuring 205/30 ZR20 front and 225/30 ZR20 rear. Brakes are uprated front and rear, but big stoppers aren’t needed thanks to powerful regenerative braking.
The i3 M’s biggest hurdle is its price.
Cutting-edge technology doesn’t come cheap, and at $89,990 BMW’s battery-powered baby is costlier than hot hatch rivals from Audi Sport and Mercedes-AMG.
Still, that means it shares the honour of BMW’s cheapest M car with the M2 Pure.