The BMW i Series may not have the heritage and fan devotion of the iconic M Series yet, but it's not difficult to imagine it one day overtaking the M Series in terms of importance for the BMW brand and the auto industry as a whole. The i Series may be a relatively small part of the BMW family at this point, but as you'll see in our 2017 BMW i Overview, this is most definitely the technology our automotive future depends upon. There may only be two BMW i models so far, but don’t expect it to stay that way for too much longer.
The first i model to be launched by BMW wasn't, as some might have expected, a subcompact all-electric city car to go up against the likes of the Nissan Leaf as an environmentally friendly way of getting around the urban environment. Instead, BMW went in an entirely different direction with i8, which is a plug-in hybrid sports car that makes us think again what hybrid technology should actually be all about.
The 2017 BMW i8 is a two-seat sports coupe whose exterior looks will draw crowds of onlookers wherever it goes. While BMW has to be congratulated for coming up with a design that can turn heads even more than the latest Ferrari, its look is so stunning it could detract to some degree from the importance of its plug-in hybrid powertrain and advanced structure. Although we can't blame admirers for marveling at the i8's striking "bird wing" doors and super car styling, they should be just as be equally admiring of the technical wizardry that's gone into the making of this remarkable car. The 2017 i8 is available in three trim levels, which have been appropriately and imaginatively named Mega World, Giga World, and Tera World to just ensure you know how special this car truly is.
At the heart of the i8 is a 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine that's now starting to appear elsewhere in the BMW portfolio, but remember, it first appeared here in the i8, and this is still most powerful version of it. In the i8 it develops 228 horsepower and 236 lb.-ft. of torque, which goes in true BMW form to the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. The front electric motor is rated at 96 kilowatts, or 131 horsepower, and 184 lb-ft of torque and on its own is capable of propelling the car at up to 75 mph. This all means the i8 can get to 60 mph in just 4.2 seconds and onto a top speed limited at 155 mph.
The other model in the current i lineup is the i3, which is a more accessible entry into BMW's i world. The i3 is an all-electric five-door city car that represents the German automaker's first foray into the world of zero emissions mass-produced vehicles.
There are three versions of the i3, which are the standard i3, the i3 with Range Extender and the i3 (60 ah). All three are based around the same electric motor producing 170 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque, but the Range Extender also includes a two-cylinder gasoline engine to extend the available driving range beyond the normal capacity of the 33 kWh high-voltage lithium-ion battery pack.
Like the i8, the i3 is also separated into trim levels of Mega World, Giga World, and Tera World.