Skip to main content

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

2019 BMW i8
Image used with permission by copyright holder

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.

Editors' Recommendations

Stephen Edelstein
Stephen is a freelance automotive journalist covering all things cars. He likes anything with four wheels, from classic cars…
2022 BMW iX first drive: Shifting paradigms
2022 BMW iX xDrive50i

When BMW paraded an orange, electric 1602 at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, no one dared imagine the project would lead to this: The iX. Pronounced "eye-ex," rather than "ix" or the Roman numeral nine, the iX is more than another electric SUV. It's a segment-bending family-hauler that breaks new ground for BMW while showcasing the technology that will spread across the range in the coming years.


Read more
Lamborghini brings back a legendary supercar as an 803-hp hybrid
Front three quarter view of the Lamborghini Countach LPI 800-4.

With its latest supercar, Lamborghini is going back to the future. The Lamborghini Countach LPI 800-4 revives a name from the 1970s but with a modern hybrid powertrain. So while the new Countach references the past, it's also a hint at what future Lamborghini models will be like, according to the company.

The original Lamborghini Countach, which turns 50 this year, is one of the greatest supercars of all time. Its wedge shape and scissor doors set a design template that Lamborghini is still using today and that many other supercar builders copied. The Countach was literally the poster child for supercars, immortalized on countless bedroom wall posters of young car enthusiasts.

Read more
Watch BMW test an electric jet pack that lets you fly at 186 mph
BMW Electrified Wingsuit

BMW's electric technology will power thousands of sedans and SUVs during the 2020s, but the company's ambitions are much higher -- literally. It's forward-thinking BMW i division teamed up with Austrian stuntman Peter Salzmann to develop a battery-powered wingsuit capable of propelling the person wearing it through the air at up to 186 mph.

Creating the device that allowed the 33-year-old Salzmann to fly above the Austrian Alps took about three years. While the wingsuit isn't a new invention, the drive unit that powers it was developed from scratch. It needed to be relatively compact, reasonably light, power dense, and, of course, reliable -- no one wants to run out of juice at 9,000 feet. BMW leveraged its expertise in electric powertrains (it released the i3 in 2013, before EVs were cool) to make it work.

Read more