BMW turns an 'i' to future with new brand
Just 24 hours after BMW announced its 'sub-brand' -- called 'i' -- we got to see one of its new stable in the flesh in Dublin.
In something of a coup for the Irish market, the concept that will become BMWi reality for us in 2013 was unveiled at the Aviva Stadium.
Not only that, but the main designer of the i8 plug-in hybrid with its glass bonnet/roof was there to talk to us -- and to me, the poor man, for nearly half an hour.
The idea of the sub-brand is to allow it to market advanced hybrid, plug-in electrics and cars that expand the driving range.
Also coming in 2013 will be the i3, an electric urban vehicle. This was known as the MegaCity Vehicle. It will have an all-electric driveline (a powerful electric motor combined with a lithium ion battery pack). There will be other versions of course.
But the i8 took centre stage yesterday. If even half of this concept makes it as a road-going car then I suggest we will see something special.
This was the EfficientDynamics concept car first shown in 2009. Now if you can avert your gaze from the stunning looks, there is a really interesting element about how this will be propelled and how much it will cost.
It will have a small three-cylinder diesel engine, probably a 1.5-litre or a 1.6-litre. It will also have an electric motor on the rear axle and another one on the front.
Overall power will be in the region of 356bhp. There is also talk they may go for a small petrol rather than a diesel.
Now guess what its competition will be? No, not a mid-range prestige 2+2. We're talking about high-performance Porsches, a Maserati and a Ferrari or two.
BMW claims this has the performance of an M3 and the frugality of a Toyota Prius. Indeed, at 99g/km it will be greener than the vast majority of cars on the market.
Of course it will cost a lot. Porsches don't come cheap but the key thing is that it will be in Tax Band A (€104 a year) and the lowest road tax. That's where this will shake things up.
Both the i3 one-box hatchback and i8 sports car will be made on a special production line at BMW's Leipzig factory. And central to everything is innovative architecture -- called LifeDrive -- to reduce weight. An aluminium chassis houses the driveline, while the passenger cell is made from carbonfibre-reinforced plastic.
Felix Baer is the i8 designer and he was at pains to point out just how much effort has gone into not just making it look stunning but to reducing clutter in the cabin and especially the information overflow that goes with modern cars.
So they have a system that stacks the information like a file and you choose what you want rather than having it overpower you.
Keeping it practical, the plug-in facility means an electric charge will get you 50km without needing the engine and the 150-litre boot will take two golf bags.
Keeping it aesthetic, the rear/side light cluster has to make it onto the production car. I don't know if the gull-wing doors will, but they should.
And there is no doubt BMW will expand the 'i' sub-brand.
Keep them coming -- 'i' have seen the future, even if I feel people will be confused by the name given the proliferation of 'i' in BMWs and other brands.