Photos: BMW i3 Concept Coupe

BMW will unveil the third model in its line of “Project i” vehicles at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week. It will be a two-door version of the i3 electric city car but, despite previous reports suggesting it would be called i4, the new concept car will be named i3 Concept Coupe.

Other than removing two doors, turning the five-door i3 hatchback into the Concept Coupe didn’t require much. The wheelbase remains the same, so what little rear legroom there was in the original i3 should be preserved. Bucket seats replace the i3 five-door’s rear bench, and they feature backrests that are molded into the trim panels.

The most unusual styling feature is definitely the rear quarter window, which looks like a pixelated teardrop. It’s hard to see what purpose the kinks in the window’s horizontal lines serve, but they do make the Concept Coupe look distinctive.

The newest i3 concept also wears striking metallic orange paint, which contrasts nicely with the car’s black trim. It makes the Concept Coupe look more like a production car and less like part of an Apple Store display.

The interior is the exact opposite; the gray-on-gray color scheme is pretty boring. The rest of the interior is basically the same as the original i3’s, including the eight-inch LCD touch screen.

The i3 Concept Coupe also features the same powertrain as the i3 five-door. It’s a 170 horsepower electric motor, driving the rear wheels. The lithium-ion battery pack should give all versions of the i3 roughly 100 miles of range per charge.

BMW first showed the i3 at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show, and revised version has been making the rounds at auto shows. Pre-LA Show chatter suggested that a new iteration of the i3 would appear, but BMW has apparently decided not to apply the same numbering scheme it uses for its other coupes, all of which are even-numbered (4 Series, X4, etc.)

The i3 will be accompanied by the i8, a plug-in hybrid supercar that uses the small hatchback’s electric motor to drive its front wheels, and a 1.5-liter, turbocharged three-cylinder gasoline engine with 223 hp to power its rear wheels and charge the batteries.

BMW did not say whether the i3 Concept Coupe will be produced, but it seems like a logical next step. BMW is coupe crazy; it’s turned everything from the 3 Series sedan to the X5 crossover into coupes. With its minimal sheet metal changes, the i3 Concept Coupe would give BMW another “i” model at a relatively low cost.

However, that similarity could make the i3 Coupe less appealing to actual buyers, who go for coupes because of their evocative styling. The i3 Concept Coupe doesn’t really have that, teardrop window or not.

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