This might come as a surprise to some people, but the “i3” moniker is alive and well. Although production of the oddball electric hatchback ended back in June 2022 after nine years and 250,000 cars, the nameplate has been repurposed for an entirely different vehicle. You’re looking at an electric long-wheelbase 3 Series Sedan LCI manufactured in China for China. It’s attending the Auto Shanghai 2023 where we photographed the more potent i3 eDrive40L variant.
BMW initially launched the i3 Sedan as an eDrive35L with 282 hp (210 kW) and 400 Nm (294 lb-ft) before adding this eDrive40L with 335 hp (250 kW) and 430 Nm (316 lb-ft). The more potent derivative cuts the 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) sprint time by 0.6 seconds to 5.6 seconds, with both being electronically governed at 112 mph (180 km/h). The dynamic duo is offered exclusively with rear-wheel drive.
Being based on the stretched 3 Series, it means the i3 is bigger than the globally available G20. It stretches 4872 mm (191.8 in) long, 1846 mm (72.6 in) wide, and 1481 mm (58.3 in) tall. The added length is found in the wheelbase, measuring a stately 2966 mm (116.7 in). It’s the first 3er ever to be offered with air suspension, albeit it’s only for the rear axle. The electric sports sedan rides 44 millimeters (1.73 inches) closer to the road than its ICE equivalent.
BMW launched the car together with the facelifted 3 Series Li, meaning it had the iDrive 8 from day one. The i3 Sedan is made at Plant Lydia in Shenyang and is sold in China alongside the i4, which obviously has similar specifications. The electric 3er kicks off at ￥353,900 ($51,500) for the eDrive35L and from ￥383,900 ($56,000) for the eDrive40L whereas the i4 retails from ￥469,900 ($68,300) for the eDrive40 or ￥549,900 ($80,000) if you step up to the M50.
It’s worth noting the 3 Series Li is sold outside of China but that’s not the case for the i3, at least not yet.