BMW is testing the market for its sportier-looking, three-door coupé version of its battery-powered i3 electric hatch with the i3 Concept Coupé at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
Otherwise it shares the basic styling treatment, 90-inch wheelbase and carbon fiber reinforced plastic body construction—the so-called Life Module structure—with the i3 five-door.
Although the three-door has yet to be signed off for production, senior BMW officials say that cost and production feasibility studies have been carried out. And it has emerged that a soft-top version of the three-door i3 is also awaiting sign-off, suggesting the i-car line-up could eventually support up to five models—three i3 hatch-derived models and two i8 sportscars.
At 158-inches long, 70 inches wide and 62 inches high, the car is 5 inches longer longer, nine inches narrower and only slightly lower than the five door. To put these dimensions into perspective, the existing Mini hatchback measures 149 inches long, 67 inches wide and 56 inches high.
Inside, the concept previews the i3’s production interior. Less flamboyant than the cabin revealed at Frankfurt last year, it sports a simple dashboard housing an integrated digital instrument binnacle, a minimum of switchgear and a free-standing, central sat-nav monitor.
The majority of the controls are accessed via an iDrive rotary controller mounted between the front seats. The steering wheel is a basic two-spoke affair with multi-function controls and the pedals elegant forged aluminium.
Power comes from a 170bhp, 184lb-ft electric motor mounted within the rear axle and driving the rear wheels through a fixed ratio gearbox. Lithium ion batteries are packed inside the floor structure. This complete powerpack is shared with the five-door.
To achieve maximum energy from the battery pack, a cockpit-mounted ‘Driving Experience Control’ switch offers three driving modes: Comfort, Eco Pro and Eco Pro+, each with its own individual throttle mapping and climate control settings. BMW claims a range of up to 100 miles in the most efficient Eco Pro+ mode, which shuts down energy-hungry devices like seat heaters.
BMW isn’t making any official performance claims for the i3 coupe. However, figures already revealed for the i3 hatchback suggest it will hit 60mph from standstill inside 8 seconds and reach a top speed of 93mph. To maximize range in Eco Pro+ mode, top speed is limited to 56mph.
BMW is also showcasing a number of new internet based functions that will be made available to buyers of its new i brand models under the ConnectedDrive banner on the i3 coupe.
They include a navigation system claimed to provide accurate assessment of range based on real-time traffic information. A so-called eRemote smartphone application developed for both iOs and Android operating systems also allows you to keep tabs on the state of the battery charge remotely, including during periods of plug-in charging.––Paul Duchene