Ethos

The BMW i5 Prepares to Take on Tesla’s Model S

A more affordable four-door, four-passenger EV.

What We Know

The BMW i5 will look like a standard three-box, four-door sedan, not a crowd-stopping spaceship like its i-model siblings. Why? Because customers in key markets including China and the United States prefer sedans to any other body style.

The i5 will be about as long as the BMW i8, yet it will aim to be roomier than a 3 Series sedan by combining the longest possible wheelbase with the shortest possible front overhang. The i5 should have enough space for a family-size luggage compartment because it will stow its main electric motor between the rear wheels, just like the i3 and i8.

The powerful i5 will come in two forms: electric-only and plug-in hybrid. The EV will have a 225-hp rear motor working in tandem with a 135-hp motor up front. A more potent rear motor in the plug-in will be good for about 275 hp, and a three- or four-cylinder engine will drive the front wheels. Torque-vectoring all-wheel drive will be standard.

Thanks to the i5’s extensive use of carbon fiber like other i-models, the curb weight target is below 3,450 pounds.

Why It Matters

Project i needs the i5. The i3 is not exactly profitable, and the i8 is a high-end niche vehicle. The BMW i5 aims to split the difference by delivering four-door, four-passenger practicality in an EV package without being astronomically expensive. It will accomplish this by fusing bits of the i3 and i8 with a more basic vehicle architecture that’s cheaper to build. It’s safe to assume the i5 will be priced to compete with the Tesla Model S, which the i5 will have squarely in its sights.

Potential Pitfalls

Since the arrival in December of BMW’s new governing board, chairman Harald Krüger and R&D chief Klaus Fröhlich have scrutinized each and every future project proposed during the regime of former chief Norbert Reithofer, leading to the end of programs such as the i8S, Z2 roadster, and 2 Series GT. The i5 is about the only surviving product from Reithofer’s reign, but who knows if or when the new bosses will want to eradicate every trace of their predecessor.

When to Expect It

Production of the i5 will likely be assigned to BMW’s Leipzig plant, where production of the 1 Series and 3 Series would be phased out. We expect production to start in 2019.

What about the… BMW Z2?

Purists, rejoice: BMW has killed the front-wheel-drive Z2 roadster, which would’ve shared its chassis and powertrain with the MINI Cooper.

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