BMW is currently the market leader in niche vehicles. There’s a specific BMW vehicle for almost every need possible. There’s a plethora of crossovers, sedans, coupes, gran coupes and gran turismos. BMW has a car in almost every single segment and has even created a few of its own. But there’s still one car that BMW has yet to make — a small mid-engined sports car.
The only mid-engined car BMW has is the i8 and that isn’t exactly small and is far too exclusive. It’s also only the second mid-engined production BMW, the first being the mighty M1. So what gives, why no mid-engined BMWs? The i8 is excellent and proves BMW can do it and do it well and there’s absolutely a market for one. Porsche has been having incredible success with the Cayman, Alfa Romeo is revitalizing its North American brand recognition with the 4C and even Honda is thinking about a baby NSX. So it stands to reason that mid-engined sports cars in that size and price range are worth making.
Admittedly, mid-engine isn’t really BMW’s forte. It’s not something that the Bavarian brand has done very often. The traditional formula for a car wearing blue and white on the hood, is six inline cylinders residing under it. But with BMW’s new love of Carbon Core technology and CFRP passenger cells like in the i8, it only makes sense that a new era of mid-engined sports car could emerge from BMW. The technology is there, the engines are there and the market is there. So why not?
I can understand that it might be a bit hard to create a pure mid-engined sports car in the same price range as the M3 and M4. BMW can’t step on the toes of its most iconic sports cars. It’s the same reason why the Porsche Cayman is so much cheaper than the 911 and that Porsche intentionally hamstrings it so as to not interfere with the iconic 911’s sales or reputation. So BMW wouldn’t be able to just make a sports car with the engine in the middle and sell it for the same money as an M3. No, it would have to be a very different machine altogether with an entirely different target audience. Which is where the i Division comes in.
We’ve discussed a lot about what BMW’s next i Division car should be. The general consensus is that it should be an i5, an electric luxury sedan to take on Tesla. And while that is a necessary car for BMW to make, maybe it can wait a couple of years. The next-gen 5 Series will have a plug-in hybrid variant, let that compete with Tesla for a bit. Because electric sedans aren’t sexy, they don’t inspire people to want to buy a certain brand of car. Hybrid, mid-engined sports cars are sexy and do inspire people, it’s the reason BMW launched the i8 as the i Division’s flagship. The only problem with the i8 is that it’s incredibly rare and very expensive.
If BMW were to make a smaller version of the i8, say an i6, with a similar setup, it could really get enthusiasts on board with plug-in hybrid technology and show the world the kind of sports car BMW has envisioned for the future. An actually attainable mid-engined plug-in hybrid sports car from BMW’s i Division would set the automotive world on fire. It would kick Mercedes and Audi right in the ass and give Porsche a deadly rival to the Cayman. Why buy a Cayman if you can by a similarly capable sports car but with twice the fuel economy and better performance?
BMW has the capability to do so right at its fingertips. Create a smaller CFRP structure, style it similar to the i8, give it the same powertrain so as to not spend any more R&D money, but less luxuries, price it competitive with the Cayman and BMW would have possibly the world’s greatest sports car on its hands. It would handle exceptionally well, as it’d be based on the i8 but BMW would have learned a thing or two since then, and be even faster than the already very quick i8, due to being smaller and lighter.
Forget the i5, an i6 sounds way better to me.