BMW Regroups. Again.
Munich rethinks the iCars and Mini
Let´s start this story with a look at BMW´s latest casualty list. Next year, we bid farewell to the three-door 1 Series, already a classic in its own right in manual M140i form. Also on the chopping block at the end of their current production runs are the 2 Series Gran Tourer, the 2 Series convertible, and the Mini cabriolet.
Then there are the BMWs we were supposed to see, but now won't. The proposed i9 eco-luxury car has been dumped in favor of the barely smaller but even roomier i7. Also gone is the i5, due in 2023.
This was kind of a full-size i3, only prettier, but the design—neither MPV nor SUV—killed it. BMW has also mothballed its short-term supercar ambitions, nixing the McLaren supercar deal at the eleventh hour, and plans for cooperation on a new vehicle architecture with Daimler.
And then there's Mini. After talks with Toyota on co-development of a new small car platform that could underpin the next-gen Mini foundered, and Munich bean counters concluded using the in-house FAAR front-drive components set for Mini would have broken the bank, BMW is turning eastwards to save Mini from extinction.
It's a long-term proposal, but the Munich grapevine insists a deal with China's Great Wall to co-develop an all-new platform for the next generation of Mini products is in the making.
In preparation for this new joint venture, BMW intends to add two more years to the life cycle of the current Mini while details are planned and agreed. The first German-Chinese Mini replacement, provisionally known as Metro Runner, is due to see the light in 2023.
Following in 2024 are the Metro Cruiser (think Mini Clubman reinvented) and the Metro Adventurer (a smaller, toned down Mini Countryman), sources say.
The idea is for BMW to lead the engineering team that defines these Mini replacements, and for Great Wall to build them in China alongside its own versions.
The expensive front-drive FAAR hardware will provide the underpinning for BMW's five-door 1 Series replacement, the next Active Tourer, and the 2 Series Gran Coupé, which is a new addition to the range.
Meanwhile, BMW R&D chief Klaus Fröhlich has confirmed the company is working on twelve fully electric cars to be launched between 2019 and 2024.
Although this number still stands, several of the vehicles originally planned have been replaced by different derivatives. New to the portfolio is a follow-up to the quirky i3 that will be rebadged iX1 to reflect its crossover proportions.
Other newcomers include an all-electric version edition of the next Rolls-Royce Ghost, and long-wheelbase variants of iX1/3/5 for China.
The most exciting new arrival, however, is known internally simply as 'brand-shaper', a car that combines the best of all worlds, and defines the BMW brand in the 21st century. You guessed it: Brand-shaper will eventually replace the i8, currently due to retire in 2022.
Presently, there are three options under discussion for brand-shaper. One is an i8 reskin in combination with bigger batteries, stronger e-motors and a 320-hp, 2.0-liter internal combustion engine instead of the raucous three-cylinder. Option number two retains only the center structure, grafts on new front and rear ends, and upgrades the petrol engine from a three to a four.
The radical third option involves abandoning the previously sacrosanct carbon-fiber structure in favor of a new multi-material architecture.
While this version of brand-shaper will also be a plug-in hybrid, it reportedly combines a potent e-motor (the three power stages are 80, 100, and 210 hp) with a 340-hp 3.0-liter six or an even brawnier 600-hp V-8, so a combined output of 800 hp appears realistic.
The zero-emission driving range is said to be between 50 and 70 miles.