Friday, December 21, 2012

BMW i3 Photo's Emerge

It's been a few weeks since any new i3 spy shots have been published, but worldcarfans and carscoop blog have just brought us some recent pictures of a couple i3's with the REx range extender option taken in what appears to be Germany.
In these pictures you can see the lines of the headlights and body panels much clearer than the past spy photos.
 We also now know where the charge port and the fuel filler door will be for certain. Both are on the passenger side with the charge port in the rear and the gas filler door on the front quarter panel.

Even though BMW tried to hide the shape of the taillight, it's clear the concept i3's U-shaped taillight design made it to production.

The headlight lines are clearly defined for the first time.
Kinda looks like a Nissan LEAF from this view. Not a comparison I like to make. Hopefully we won't draw that comparison without the crazy camo-stickers all over.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

BMW i3 Concept Coupe Revealed

BMW i manager Oliver Walter introduces the concept i3 coupe at the LA Auto Show
BMW surprised a lot of people at the LA Auto Show and introduced a new variation of the i3, a 2 door coupe to compliment the 4 door hatchback that will launch towards the end of 2013. This new coupe is currently only a concept, but if BMW feels enough people would buy this variant, it could easily go into production.

It shares the same drive platform as the 4 door i3, so most of the engineering is already done. All BMW would have to do is make the different passenger cell and attach it to the same drive platform that the 4 door will be using. Now I'm sure it's not exactly that simple, but I am also confident most of the drive platform would be exactly the same.

The i3's life-drive platform
In fact, Oliver Walter referred to the "i3 family of vehicles" when addressing the crowd of ActiveE drivers at the LA Auto Show. I interpreted this as a sign BMW may use the i3's drive platform to make multiple different offerings.  Since the CFRP passenger cell is literally glued to the aluminum frame which houses the entire drivetrain and batteries, it wouldn't seem to be very difficult at all to offer multiple passenger configurations, provided there was a demand for different offerings.

Many of the people I spoke to were very excited about the coupe, even more so than for the 4 door which is going to be the initial i3 offering. While I liked the look of the coupe, Personally I'm more interested in the utility of the 4 door. The access to the rear seating area is so much better with the coach(suicide) doors on the 4 door. Getting in and out as well as loading and unloading cargo from the rear seats will be infinitely easier with the coach doors and I don't think it takes away from the styling at all, especially since there are no outside door handles for the rear doors. I also think another reason why many others were so excited about the coupe was because looked closer to a production car than the four door i3 does. Lets face it, the 4 door concept car is getting a little long in the tooth and people are getting tired of looking at the glass doors and roof. It was introduced about a year and a half ago and other than a different color interior there has been no changes to it. I get a lot of inquiries about when will BMW show us the production version. The concept coupe has a new, refreshed interior that quite honestly looks stunning and ready for production. I suspect this is very close to what the production i3 interior will look like and I hope BMW doesn't change much because it looks awesome as it currently is.

BMW North American manager of sales and strategy Jacob Harb was also at the event and he spoke for a while and then fielded questions from the ActiveE group. There really wasn't any new news offered. We talked a lot about the range extender option as well as DC quick charge. There was also a lot of discussion on the tires BMW seem to be using on the i3. They are tall and thin and don't look like they would be good for aggressive driving. The concept coupe at the show had 175/60 R20's on the rear wheels and 155/60 R20's on the front. No doubt the different tire sizes were a concept-only feature but the tall and thin nature of them had people wondering if too much road holding will be sacrificed in the name of efficiency. We also talked a lot about the use of run-flat tires. I can say with certainty the ActiveE drivers there, and many others that I have spoken to do not want run flat tires on the i3. I hope BMW got the message and decides not to use them. They are loud, harsh and heavy and we do not want them. Can I be any clearer?

The openness of the i3 is hard to capture in pictures. Although it is a small car, the interior is spacious. During the presentation Walter said the i3 will have roughly the same interior volume as a three series. That's considerably more space than our ActiveE's have now even though the i3 is much smaller. Because of the life-drive architecture and the elimination of the transmission tunnel needed on front engine internal combustion engine cars, the i3's passenger compartment is much more spacious than a comparable gas car of it's size would be.

So while I'm really happy to see BMW thinking about expanding the i3's line to offer different variations, what I'm really looking forward to is finally seeing what the production i3 will look like. We are tantalizingly close now after nearly four years of waiting. I'm figuring I'll get my wish in about three months in Geneva? Anyone else care to guess when and where BMW will show off the real i3?

Here's some more pictures from the LA Auto show: