BMW’s new model could shock Tesla, but it needs a name first

2015 BMW 1 Series

Charting the impact of Tesla Motors has become a cottage industry, but that impact is probably most directly felt among luxury carmakers, whose products most directly compete with the Model S on price, performance, and features.

That’s why BMW will take the fight to Tesla with a new electric car that could be called i5 or i7, according to Britain’s CAR magazine.

Whatever it’s called, this potential addition to the BMW “i” range would reportedly be based on the long-wheelbase 5 Series sold in China. The extra length leaves more room for batteries.

The powertrain will reportedly consist of two electric motors and a 245-horsepower four-cylinder gasoline engine, although the report says it will function as a range extender, similar to the setup used by the Chevrolet Volt.

One electric motor will power each axle for all-wheel drive, but that will only be used when maximum power is needed. Total power output is estimated at around 544 hp.

BMW is reportedly shooting for an electric-only range of 80 miles, but having the gasoline engine onboard will give drivers a lot more flexibility than if the i5/i7 was powered solely by batteries.

Since it’s based on the 5 Series platform, the new model probably won’t have much in common with the carbon fiber-and-aluminum i3 and i8, even if it does share an “i” badge with them.

BMW may try to make that connection with styling, using those models’ radical designs to sell the more mainstream sedan.

For now, BMW seems content using the i3 and i8 as tech-showcase halo models, but there’s certainly a big gap between the two that a vehicle like the i5/i7 could fill.

However, the Tesla-fighting BMW isn’t expected to debut until 2018, although a concept version is reportedly under consideration for the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show this fall.