A new report finds BMW is in the early stages of developing a fuel-sipping sports sedan aimed squarely at the Tesla Model S.
Tentatively called either i5 or i7, the sedan will share its platform with the next generation of the long-wheelbase 5 Series that will be sold exclusively in China. The car will borrow the bulk of its suspension, brake and steering components from the next 5, a move that will allow BMW to benefit from economies of scale.
Power will come from a highly efficient plug-in hybrid drivetrain consisting of a gasoline-burning four-cylinder mounted in the engine bay and two electric motors located over the rear axle. A high-capacity battery pack installed under the passenger compartment will allow the sedan to drive on electricity alone for about 80 miles.
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The driver will be able to alternate between front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive depending on which power source is being used to spin the wheels. It is too early to provide concrete performance and fuel economy figures but gas mileage should be stellar because sources close to the Munich-based automaker have revealed that the four-banger will only kick in at speeds above 40 mph.
Visually, the i5/i7 will draw inspiration from both the current 6 Series Gran Coupe and the 2016 7 Series that will be presented at next March at the Geneva Motor Show. The next 7 was previewed by the Vision Future Luxury concept (pictured) that bowed in Beijing earlier this year, so it’s safe to say that the concept will also subtly influence the upcoming Tesla-fighter.
Automobile Magazine reports that BMW will preview its premium hybrid sedan with a thinly-veiled concept that will debut at a major auto show in 2017 and introduce the production model the following year. The sedan will carry a base price of approximately $100,000, and BMW believes it can sell about 30,000 examples annually worldwide.