|A full range of official press photos of this semi-camouflaged Mi3 will be released a couple days before NAIAS in two weeks. This is the only one I was authorized to reveal.|
About six months ago, Eric Loveday of InsideEVs.com wrote this article that predicted the BMW M performance division won't be making an M version of the upcoming BMW i3 or i8. I've known for a while now that that was not true, but the information I got from BMW was under embargo until now so I couldn't comment on it previously. I finally got a chance to look at a pre-production ///M i3 last week. The car I saw didn't have all the body work or the special wheels that the ///M i3 pictured above has since this one is being used for internal testing here at BMW's North American headquarters, but it did have all the performance upgrades and ///M badging.
|I was lucky to be one of only a few people to get a sneak peak of the M i3 before its unveiling at NYIAS in two weeks.|
Perhaps this was the intention all along, or maybe BMW changed their minds along the way, but both the upcoming i3 and i8 plug-ins from BMW i will get the "M" treatment. Back in August of last year I did a post about BMW offering a Sport Version to satisfy the desires of the performance minded i3 buyers and it turns out BMW was definitely listening. Honestly, I would have really been surprised if the i3 didn't have an ///M variant or at the very least, as I suggested, a special edition "Sport" i3.
|One person posted this on Bimmerpost. Perhaps they were wishing for an ///M i3 also?|
I knew all along that if BMW really wanted their customer base to welcome the i3 and accept it as a true BMW then they would have to offer a performance version, just like they do with their other models. Performance is in BMW's DNA, it's what distinguishes a BMW from the other premium brands. To not make a performance version of the i3 would seem to be a mistake in my opinion. However I didn't expect it to come so quickly. I figured the ///M i3 would be launched sometime in 2016 to invigorate interest once the initial excitement over the i3 began to wane.
|TopSpeed (www.topspeed.com) had their go at what they think the ///M i3 will look like|
Fortunately the majority of the respondents must have answered as I did, saying yes we would be willing to pay extra for both range and performance. Yes, I know the i3 is focused on sustainable personal transportation for an evolving world, but hell, there's always the weekends, and i3 owners will want to autocross their cars just like 3-Series owners do. That's part of the BMW heritage, and part of why people gravitate to the brand.
|TopSpeed's ///M i3 guess shown in coupe' form|
|The ///M i3 wheels will be a modified version of the optional 20" wheels available on the i8|
Little is actually known about the spec's of the ///M i8, but I do have some of the details on the ///M i3. Besides a more aggressive exterior styling, including a new front grill and spoiler, monochromatic paint (Yes, the black hood and rear diffusers will be painted the color of the car) a larger rear spoiler and fender flares. The standard wheels on the ///M i3 will be the 20" Sport wheels that are currently available on the i3 (the 19" wheels aren't available on the ///M i3). However there will also be a wider wheel offering which puts a 20" x 6.5" wheel on the car with 245/40/R20 Brigestone Potenza S001 Tires. The wheels look very similar to the optional 20" BMW i8 wheels but they appear to be painted black in the press photo I obtained. The upgrade tire size is nearly perfect in diameter and the speedometer will not be affected at all. I suspect this will dramatically improve the handling, but it will certainly come with a price. I'd expect this tire and wheel combo to likely be about a $2,000 option, but for the performance-minded, it will likely be worth it!
Specification-wise all I know is that BMW is indeed using the same motor that the base i3 uses, it's just been modified to increase power output by about 25%. If that holds true, figure on about 210 horsepower and 230 lb-ft of torque. I was told the goal was to get the 0-60 times in the mid 5 second range and with that kind of added power I believe it is definitely within reach since the stock i3 BEV does it in about 7 seconds with 25% to 30% less power. The suspension will obviously be improved for performance and the interior will likely get the usual smattering of ///M badging and special seats which offer more support.
Now for the most intriguing part of this. The i3 has been designed around the philosophy of weight savings whenever possible. Many of these features will add weight which reduces efficiency. Plus, the more powerful drivetrain will likely use more energy than the stock set-up does. If someone were to drive the car hard (like it should be driven) then the range may only be 40 or 50 miles, and that's just not enough. So I asked if the ///M i3 would be available with the range extender, and was told definitely not; it will only be available in BEV form. Pressing further about the likely limited range of what will be a very expensive 40 mile electric car he replied, "The ///M i3 will have a greater electric range then the standard i3. It will also charge faster and offer technology unavailable in any other electric vehicle on the market." Now this is indeed getting interesting. There are really only two possibilities here that make any sense. It either has a larger battery pack, perhaps utilizing the space where the range extender goes, or BMW is using the higher density batteries that they have been testing in MINI-E mules for a couple years now. These cells are reported to have about a 30% greater energy density than the stock i3 batteries that come from Samsung have, so that would seem to work here.
I wish I could say I've had the opportunity to test drive it, but I didn't. I was only allowed a brief in person look at the one pictured above in Arravani grey which was at BMW NA's headquarters undergoing internal testing and give the BMW Press photo of the semi-camouflaged one on the track. Even without driving it or knowing what it's going to cost, I decided to cancel my Electronaut Edition i3 and place my order for an ///M i3. They aren't officially available yet so please don't call your dealer and ask to reserve one, that won't be possible until after the New York Auto Show. The ///M i3 & ///M i8 will also be available in "unique colors specific to the M division," I'm hoping Melbourne Red is one of them ;)
4/2/14 EDIT: As many of you figured out, this was an April Fools Post yesterday and I want future readers to realize that. If you take a look at the first letters of each paragraph that are in bold blue text you can see that spell "April fools", I'm surprised nobody commented on that here. I hope you enjoyed it and what I really hope for is a real ///M i3 form BMW sometime in the future!