There are just two vehicles in BMW’s i sub-brand (which, please note, does not including the new iPerformance sub-sub brand): the i3 hatchback (pictured) and the i8 sports car. It’s said that BMW has locked up all the numbers for the range from i1 to i9, and that a family hauler most likely called the i5—but also, possibly, the i6, or maybe the i7—will be the next product. BMW has said nothing about it, and has even asked more than one outlet not to suggest such a car has been confirmed, so of course it’s since been imagined in just about every body style and with wild performance numbers. The truth, according to a Car and Driver interview with BMW i's head of product, Henrik Wenders, suggests reality will be more prosaic yet quintessentially i, BMW.
The major point is that the new product, which for simplicity's sake we’ll refer to as the i5 from here on, will employ an evolution of the carbon fiber structures initiated with the i3 and i8. Wenders said: “One of i’s roles is as an enabling brand, to help industrialize new materials and processes. We have already opened the door with the i3, and we will take it from there.” This conceivably quashes the idea that the i5 will be based on the traditional, long-wheelbase 5 Series sedan body developed for China along with a helping of “Carbon Core” technology swiped from the new 7 Series. We take this as a good thing; BMW invested heavily in CFRP to deliver on its original vision, so any subsequent vehicle wearing the “i” badge should deliver fully on that vision.
Wenders said the i3 is a second or third car in many households, but a potential i5 would be the primary family car. The suggestion is that buyers will have the option of a range-extending engine to alleviate anxiety, but that “once [the electric motor achieves] a range that is more comparable with that of an internal-combustion engine," that range-extender "will become obsolete.” Wenders also noted that the initial strong uptake of the i3 with a supplementary gas engine is “decreasing dramatically now,” and that the engine gets used regularly less than five percent of the time.
Breaking that down, however, implies that the battery of this new i model won’t have substantial range on its own. We’re speculating a number less than the 200 miles that will soon be available with the Chevy Volt and Tesla Model 3, eliminating all hope of this hypothetical i5 being a competitor to the Model S.
What will it look like? Even Wenders wouldn’t say, divulging only that BMW is “working very hard on the usage concept, but this needs to be defined by the market and not by us.” The intel from Green Car Reports says “it will be closer to a crossover utility vehicle,” while the widest consensus is that it will hit the market by 2020, or later. Assuming such a car even exists, of course. (Did we make that speculative enough for you, BMW?)