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The BMW i3 is back, but only in China as an electric 3-Series.

The BMW i3 is back, but not in its previous form. The new BMW i3 is an electric version of the venerable 3-series sedan rather than a tiny hatchback with concept-car styling and a carbon-fiber-reinforced-plastic structure. The i3 eDrive35L, however, will be built exclusively for the Chinese market and will not be available in the United States.

The i3 shares a powertrain with BMW’s most recent electric models, including the i4, iX, and iX3, which are also not sold in the United States. BMW didn’t say much about the i3’s electric motors, but given that the i4 eDrive40 is rear-wheel-drive and BMW promises “sporty driving dynamics,” we’d expect the i3 to have a single motor on the rear axle, which the cutaway image appears to confirm. The i3 does produce 282 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, according to BMW. The i3 can reach 62 mph in 6.2 seconds, according to the manufacturer. On China’s CLTC testing cycle, a 66.1-kWh battery provides 327 miles, and BMW claims the i3 can be charged from 10% to 80% in 35 minutes.

bmw i3 edrive35l


The L at the end of the name denotes a longer wheelbase, with an extra 4.3 inches between the wheels of the i3 compared to a standard 3-series sedan. Long-wheelbase luxury sedans are popular in China, where having a chauffeur is more common than in the United States. The i3 will go on sale in China in May of this year, with BMW Brilliance, a joint venture with Chinese automaker Brilliance Auto, producing it in Shenyang. Perhaps BMW will introduce an electric 3-series in the United States in the future, but for the time being, the i4 is the only electric sedan available.

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