In this business, I'm regularly fascinated by the "what ifs"—those moonshot concepts that automakers plan and ultimately scrap, many of which never, ever reach public knowledge. Even as journalists, brands don't tend to let us in on these. Most of the time, we're just as clueless as anyone else. That's why I've been enjoying BMW design chief Domagoj Dukec's recent initiative of revealing some of Munich's behind-the-scenes projects. His latest haul from history, a vehicle called the I16, might just be the most bittersweet of all.
Dukec posted sketches and renderings of the I16 to Instagram on Friday morning. To some degree, it should look familiar—the I16 was a descendant of the Vision M Next study, which toured auto shows in 2019. However, the I16 was clearly a more production-oriented and dare I say elegant design than the Vision M Next, and that's because, as Dukec says, the company had an actual ambition to sell it to customers.
From a product standpoint, it was obviously a successor to the i8. Spiritually, though, there was no mistaking the I16 as a tribute to the M1, and a compelling one at that. "Within less than 12 months the car was ready—inside and out," Dukec wrote in the post.
Considering the timeframe that the I16 was in development, you can probably guess why it never crossed the finish line.
"While we pushed, the world changed in 2020," Dukec added. "And so, work on the project unfortunately had to be stopped."
It's nothing less than a shame. When we caught wind that BMW had canceled its i8 sequel in the spring of 2020, it turns out this is what we lost. Not just another plug-in hybrid sports car that stood to further legitimize the technology to enthusiasts, but an objectively beautiful car that may have silenced (completely deserved) criticism of BMW's styling direction heading into this decade, with a clear throughline to the brand's rich sporting history.
If you ask me, it isn't too late. We're seeing many automakers walk back their plans to fast-track EVs after buyers haven't taken to them as quickly as Wall Street would've liked. Hybrids, particularly of the plug-in variety, are a great solution for the here and now. From the Corvette E-Ray to the McLaren Artura and the Volkswagen GTE we really should be able to buy here but can't, the performance hybrid segment is a growing one, for good reason. BMW was a little too early to the party with the i8. The I16, though, would still be right on time.
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