BMW announced today that it will build the all-new three-cylinder engine for its i8 range-extended sports car at its Hams Hall plant near Birmingham, England. The British factory will be the only BMW facility to manufacture the new three-cylinder engine.
Hams Hall is already responsible for building all of the gas-powered engines found in Minis, as well as some of the engines in the BMW X1, 1 Series, and 3 Series. The plant underwent a major renovation last year to prepare for the production of the new generation of three-cylinder engines.
The BMW i8 was originally revealed as a concept at last year's Frankfurt Motor Show using a plug-in hybrid electric propulsion setup, which was made up of a turbocharged three-cylinder powering the rear wheels and an electric motor for the fronts. Thanks to the hybrid powertrain, the i8 can function as a zero-emissions front-wheel drive car (with an all-electric range of about 20 miles), a traditional rear-wheel drive sports car, or an all-wheel drive hybrid. The powertrain's combined total output comes to a very respectable 349 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque with an electronically-limited top speed of 155 mph. BMW estimates that the i8 concept can make the run from 0 to 62 mph in just 4.6 seconds and achieve between 33 and 47 mph in rear-world driving.
According to our report this past March, BMW will offer the i8 exclusively as a range-extended PHEV – unlike the smaller i3 that will offer an electric-only option. The new U.K.-built three-cylinder will displace 1.5 liters and be good for roughly223 hp and 295 lb-ft, and the production-spec i8 will be rated closer to around 393 hp and the same 406 lb-ft as the concept. Expect to see a four-speed – rather than a single-speed – transmission hooked up to the i8's powertrain to better make use of the broad performance range.
We expect to see the BMW i8 on sale at the beginning of 2014; however, we may see the i8 Spyder first given that the concept show earlier this year had doors and an interior that looked closer to production than the original coupe concept.