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Could BMW return to the ranks of supercar builders with a 700-hp hybrid?

2019 BMW i8

The current BMW i8 is a clever piece of engineering and design, but its performance is nowhere near as dramatic as its looks. What if BMW used the i8 as the basis for a hybrid supercar that could take on the likes of the McLaren 570s and Acura NSX?

BMW research and development boss Klaus Fröhlich mused about exactly that possibility in a recent interview with British magazine Autocar. While BMW has not made any official announcements, the magazine claims a direct replacement for the i8 is unlikely. Autocar reasoned that BMW could instead divert resources to a more expensive, higher-performance model, an idea Fröhlich seemed to like.

“If you are an engineer, once in your life, you want to make a super-sports car,” Fröhlich said. “I think partial electrification will enable that.”

Fröhlich said that the i8’s lightweight carbon fiber reinforced plastic chassis would make a good basis for a supercar. The current i8 is a plug-in hybrid that uses a 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine and electric assist to generate 369 horsepower. That makes the i8 decently quick (the coupe version does 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, according to BMW), but it’s not supercar stuff.

Autocar predicts that a BMW hybrid supercar could use a modified version of the i8 chassis, but with a larger internal-combustion engine. The magazine expects six cylinders instead of three, working with a contingent of electric motors to produce up to 700 hp. That’s more like it.

The model could arrive in 2023, launching BMW back into the ranks of supercar builders for the first time since the debut of the M1 in the late 1970s. Pricing could reportedly rival entry-level supercars like the McLaren 570S and Acura NSX (which already features a hybrid powertrain). That would likely put the BMW somewhere north of the current i8’s $147,500 starting price.

BMW has not made any official statements about the future of the i8 or the possibility of a new supercar, making this an exercise in speculation. But the automaker is getting serious about electrification. Fröhlich told Autocar that BMW is engineering all of its cars to accommodate internal-combustion, plug-in hybrid or all-electric powertrains. Fröhlich previously told Digital Trends that BMW will have 25 electrified vehicles (meaning hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or all-electric) by 2025, including 12 fully electric models. Perhaps one of them will be a supercar.

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Stephen Edelstein
Stephen is a freelance automotive journalist covering all things cars. He likes anything with four wheels, from classic cars…
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