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Queue forms for i8 as BMW prepares for product blitz

i want one: BMW has taken ‘half a dozen’ orders for the i8 hybrid coupe in Australia, well before its official local launch in 2014.

Deposits taken for BMW i8 hybrid coupe in Oz ahead of packed launch schedule

22 Nov 2012

A QUEUE of early-adopters is already forming in Australia for BMW’s i8 plug-in hybrid coupe, well ahead of its local showroom debut in the middle of 2014, with at least six deposits so far.

BMW Australia also claims to have received expressions of interest in the smaller i3 hatchback due here at the same time, and which the company has announced will initially be offered here as range-extender hybrid rather than as a pure EV.

The electrified models will be among a deluge of new models in the pipeline for BMW, starting with the 3 Series Touring and petrol-electric ActiveHybrid 7 limousine in the first quarter of next year, plus a facelifted Z4 roadster and high-riding 3 Series GT about mid-year.

Following those will be the fire-breathing M6 Gran Coupe (to be revealed in January at the Detroit motor show), new 4 Series coupe (to be previewed by a concept at Geneva in March) and facelifted 5 Series sedan, wagon and GT in the third quarter.

An all-new X5 SUV might just sneak into Australian showrooms by the end of 2013 after a possible United States show reveal, but it will be treated as a 2014 model here.

14 center imageFrom top: BMW i3 concept Concept Active Tourer 3 Series Touring M6 Gran Coupe teaser image.

A trickle of the eco-friendly i-cars will also arrive in Australia around September next year for BMW’s own internal purposes after an international reveal around mid-2013, but first customer deliveries will not be made until mid-2014.

Speaking at this week’s facelifted X1 launch, BMW head of corporate communications Piers Scott told journalists “the tap for (i-car) production will be turned on quite slowly”.

However, that has not stopped “at least half a dozen” customers placing deposits on the i8 plug-in hybrid sportscar, which is claimed to deliver M3-like acceleration but fuel consumption to shame a Toyota Prius.

As GoAuto reported in July 2011, BMW let slip that the i8 would cost about $300,000 but Mr Scott said the company “can pleasantly surprise people and keep it under those sorts of figures”.

“I think you could look at it as a competitor potentially to the R8,” he said (the R8 is priced from $271,000 plus on-road costs).

The i8 combines lightweight carbon-fibre construction with a 164kW/300Nm three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine driving the rear wheels and a 125kW/250Nm electric motor driving the front wheels.

A production-ready roadster version of the i8 – previewed as the i8 Spyder concept at the Beijing show in April – is tipped to appear at the Los Angeles motor show later this month.

Rumours abound that LA will also host the unveiling of a sporty coupe version of the i3 eco-hatch, dubbed i4.

Mr Scott said the electric-only version of the i3 hatch would not be launched in Australia initially, with the launch line-up limited to the internal combustion-assisted range-extender model.

Although expressions of interest have been received for the i3 in Australia, Mr Scott said no money had yet changed hands, as BMW was still considering whether to offer the cars on lease, and how such a scheme would work.

“We need to work through issues with the factory warranty, whether leasing arrangements would work better for early adopters where electric vehicles are concerned, so those sorts of details are still being worked through for i3,” he said.

“That is more of an exercise of talking to interested parties and customers as to what sort of arrangement would work.” The arrival of i-cars in Australia will not slow BMW’s gruelling launch schedule, with the 4 Series convertible, M3 sedan, M4 coupe and an X4 little brother to the polarising X6 all on the way.

Mr Scott agreed that “it is a fairly safe assumption” that the M3 and M4 would get six-cylinder power and that turbo-charging will be used, as with the current M5.

He described the turbo six used in the Z4 sDrive35is and 1M Coupe as close to what can be done with that engine, so the M3 and M4 could get an all-new unit, perhaps employing the triple-turbo technology developed for diesel M Performance M50d models.

BMW’s sub-brand Mini will also launch its next-generation hatch, debuting the modular UKL front-drive platform that will eventually underpin BMW’s compact sub-3 Series models.

Further down the track will be a replacement for the 1 Series coupe and convertible that is likely to be badged 2 Series and expected to spawn numerous body derivatives.

Mr Scott said the Compact Active Tourer concept shown at Paris in September would wear 2 Series badges if given the green light for production, when it would become BMW’s first front-drive model.

He said it would not wear the GT designation because this designation was reserved for a potential future derivative but hinted the word Sports might be used in the nomenclature – suggesting it will be named 2 Series Sports Tourer.

“In the same way the 3 Series range has dramatically expanded, the 2 Series could do the same so I don’t want to rule out that “GT” name for the future”, said Mr Scott.

He said a replacement for the Z4 is still around three years away and may take some styling cues from the Vision ConnectedDrive concept unveiled at the 2011 Geneva show.

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