BMW is in a festive mood in China where it has hosted a ceremony to mark the five millionth vehicle to roll off the assembly line Shenyang. The automaker operates two car factories (Dadong and Tiexi) at the Group’s biggest production network in the world where it also has a powertrain plant and an R&D center. The milestone vehicle is an i3, but not the quirky small hatchback you remember. Instead, it’s a fully electric 3 Series based on the long-wheelbase sedan.
Specifically, it’s an i3 eDrive40L made exclusively for the local market by the BMW Brilliance joint venture. The zero-emission saloon helped the automaker’s regional division to boost sales of EVs by 91.6% in 2022 compared to the year before. It’s based on the 3 Series LCI and comes with a rear-wheel-drive setup courtesy of an electric motor mounted at the back, making 335 hp (250 kW) and 430 Nm (317 lb-ft) of torque.
Positioned above the lesser i3 eDrive35L, the more potent version does 0 to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 5.6 seconds. Production of the eDrive40L commenced last month, nearly a year after the base model hit the assembly line. It uses a 79-kWh battery pack good for 592 kilometers (368 miles) of range in the local test cycle.
The i3 Sedan will go down in history as BMW’s first 3 Series to offer air suspension, albeit it’s only for the rear axle. It rides 44 millimeters (1.73 inches) lower to the ground than a regular model powered by combustion engines.
The i3 is not the only China-made model sold locally as BMW also assembles long wheelbase versions of the X1 and X5 together with a stretched 5 Series. In addition, the iX3 electric crossover is manufactured exclusively in the country and exported to global markets.
As a refresher, the BMW Brilliance joint venture that assembles the i3 Sedan has been fully consolidated into the BMW Group. Consequently, the automotive conglomerate’s workforce jumped by nearly 26,000 employees in 2022.