LOS ANGELES – Hours before the start of the auto show, an invitation-only crowd is ushered inside a hilltop venue in Beverly Hills for a sneak peek at BMW’s i3 Concept Coupe, a fully electric, fully connected 3-door hatchback.
Sporting a carbon-fiber hull, the 4-seat Coupe is the latest in BMW’s still-under-development “i” sub-brand that Adrian Van Hooydonk, senior vice president-group design, says will offer a new generation of vehicles that combine premium materials and workmanship with eco-friendly sustainability.
On the Coupe displayed here, the bodywork panels around the wheel arches, doors and rear sidewalls are painted in Solar Orange metallic, which a company release describes as “a warm shade bursting with energy,” created especially for the concept car. The bright orange hue offers a distinct contrast with the high-gloss black finish on the hood, roof and trunk lid, in addition to the body’s black lower edge.
The Coupe’s interior – an arrangement of function elements, controls and a mix of leather, wood, wool and other renewable raw materials – uses a layered-material approach similar to the exterior’s.
The car’s freestanding steering column shows a 2-part design enhanced by the color scheme. All supporting elements are finished in a light gray, though the steering wheel’s outer-grip areas and all controls are black.
For every premium brand in the future, Van Hooydonk says, “sustainability is a must. For the next couple of years that we see ahead of us, there will be changes.”
The BMW I line will provide “everything” drivers could want over the next several years, he adds.
With a 170-hp electric motor fueled by a lithium-ion battery, the 4-seater puts out 184 lb.-ft. (249 Nm) of torque to the rear wheels through a single-speed transmission.
The carbon-fiber exterior body is molded with BMW’s signature “stream flow” design, which the auto maker says accentuates the Coupe with “gracefully flowing” roofline and side windows, providing “an instant impression of lightness, transparency and streamlined aerodynamic qualities.”
Also included in the Concept Coupe are state-of the-art infotainment and navigation programs linked to the Internet through BMW’s ConnectedDrive services and accessible through a driver’s smartphone.
The car has one 6.5‑in. (16.5-cm) screen positioned on the steering column, where all driving-related information appears in digital form, and a second 8.8-in. (22.4-cm) graphics-display screen.
The i3 Coupe can drive 100 miles (161 km) on a single charge, supported by software that adjusts the planned navigation routes to keep the car in its most efficient mode. The Eco Pro+ program shuts off unessential functions, including heat and air conditioning, and limits the vehicle’s top speed to 56 mph (90 km/h) for so-called “hypermiling.”
Once the car’s battery is depleted beyond a specific point, the Eco Pro+ mode switches into action automatically.
“We don’t see many offerings in the market, even here in L.A., that actually make this combination,” Van Hooydonk says of the connected EV. “We see a real market opportunity there. That’s why we are taking such a radical approach.”