BMW just introduced an updated version of its i8 plug-in hybrid sports car for 2019, which means the automaker will soon need to think about a successor. It turns out BMW won't introduce another generation of the i8 but will instead go with a more exciting offering based on the recently revealed Vision M Next concept car.
In an interview with Car Sales published Wednesday, BMW R&D chief Klaus Froelich confirmed that the i3 and i8 won't spawn direct replacements. He indicated that the role of the i3 will be filled by the upcoming i4 sedan, while the i8 will be succeeded by a BMW M offering based on the Vision M Next.
“M is fast and furious and fun and that always works, but there is no direct successor for the i3 and no direct successor for the i8,” he said.
2015 BMW i8, 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show
Froelich has indicated twice in the past that combining the i8's aluminum and carbon fiber underpinnings with a powerful powertrain made a lot of sense, and that's exactly what we got with the Vision M Next.
The striking concept ditched the i8's inline-3 and single electric motor for an inline-4 and twin electric motors. The combination was claimed by BMW to deliver 600 horsepower, or enough for 0-62 mph acceleration in 3.0 seconds and a top speed of 186 mph.
In his interview with Car Sales, Froelich indicated that BMW looked at a battery-electric sports car but decided against it as the battery would make the car too heavy. He said an electric sports car would weigh approximately 4,850 pounds, which means it could perform well in acceleration tests but poorly on the racetrack.
“Being fast is not only about longitudinal acceleration,” he said. “That part is easy.”
By going with a plug-in hybrid powertrain, BMW will be able to keep weight down to a more reasonable level. The automaker targeted a weight of 3,750 pounds for the Vision M Next concept but actually came in a lot lower, according to Froelich.
As the i8 has only just been updated, we'll likely see the new sports car introduced around 2022-2023. It's arrival is expected to mark the arrival of electrified powertrains at BMW M.