BMW will launch an all-electric flagship sedan in 2021 that will supplant its current top-of-the-line 7-Series range, it said yesterday. The model will be previewed by a concept called BMW iNext, and is another addition to the increasingly-diverse BMW “i” lineup of plug-in cars.
The iNext is viewed by analysts as a direct reaction to the success of Tesla Motors, along with upcoming luxury electric cars from German rivals Audi and Mercedes-Benz. BMW CEO Harald Kruger confirmed the electric flagship model during the company’s annual shareholder meeting, according to Bloomberg.
The iNext will feature “autonomous driving, digital connectivity, intelligent lightweight design,” and an upgraded interior, Kruger said. He also confirmed the much-anticipated i8 convertible for a 2018 launch.
But he did not mention the anticipated BMW i5, an electric crossover (with optional range extender) that is expected to debut next year and go into production in 2018 as a 2019 model. The i5 will not only help keep the “i” product line fresh while BMW conjures the iNext, but also fill the gap between the humbler i3 city car and the pricey, low-volume i8 coupe, along with the iNext flagship sedan.
The iNext’s 2021 launch date means it will arrive fully eight years after the i3 debuted as the first model in the “BMW i” sub-brand of electrified vehicles. The “i” designation indicates the iNext will use a carbon fiber-reinforced plastic body, like the i3 and i8. BMW has limited use of the material to those two models, although the current 7 Series uses some carbon-fiber strengthening members in its so-called “Carbon Core” structure.
The Bavarian carmaker may find it has to play catch up with its German rivals, all of which have plans to launch luxury electric cars before the iNext. An Audi electric SUV based on the e-Tron Quattro concept from the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show will launch in 2018, reportedly named the Q6 e-tron.
Mercedes is said to be working on a platform that can support multiple electric-car models, with the first one to debut in 2018 or 2019. Porsche will launch a production version of its Mission E sedan concept by the end of the decade.
Finally, the Volkswagen Phaeton luxury sedan is expected to switch to an all-electric powertrain when a redesigned version launches in 2020.