The plug-in hybrid BMW i8 retired in 2020 without a direct successor, but the intent wasn’t always to leave its spot in the range empty. The numerous reports churned out by the rumor mill were at least partially true: BMW almost replaced the i8 with a coupe inspired by the M1.
BMW design boss Domagoj Dukec published renderings of a low-slung coupe called I16 that’s both familiar and futuristic on his Instagram account. He explained that the model was developed to replace the i8, that it shared its composite structure with its intended predecessor, and that it was created in less than a year. The cool thing about his post is that this is a project that hasn’t been shown to the public before.
While the doors are reminiscent of the ones fitted to the i8, the I16 looks like a toned-down version of the Vision M concept unveiled in 2019 with a 600-horsepower plug-in hybrid powertrain. BMW has a long track record of previewing its upcoming models with close-to-production concepts, so the I16 is the missing part of the puzzle here. Dukec’s team made numerous changes to the original design study, such as a more realistic-looking front end with bigger headlights and a new-look rear end with horizontal iX-like lights, but the M1 influence remains.
The overall proportions are close to the M1’s, which was also powered by a mid-mounted engine, and styling cues such as the rear louvers and the twin BMW logos on the back end also draw a parallel between the 2010s and the 1970s. The I16 doesn’t venture as far into retro territory as the M1 Hommage, which made its debut at the 2008 Villa d’Este Concours d’Elegance and wasn’t a candidate for production.
Rumors detailing a modern-day, M1-inspired supercar have been floating around our little corner of the world for over a decade. In 2012, the reports claimed it be called M8 — it wasn’t, though then nameplate later appeared on the range-topping version of the 8 Series. Things went mostly quiet until the Vision M arrived. In April 2020, the rumors sketched the outline of a Vision M-inspired, i8-related coupe with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain capable of delivering 600 horsepower and approximately 60 miles of electric-only range, figures that eclipsed the i8’s.
Then, in May 2020 we posted a follow-up report claiming the project had been canned. “The board decided not to build it. [The project] makes no sense in the post-corona world,” an insider allegedly said. In this case, the rumors were spot on. “While we pushed, the world changed in 2020. And so, work on the project unfortunately had to be stopped,” explained Dukec without providing more specific details.