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BMW i3 name gets a second outing for 288bhp, long-wheelbase EV version of 3 Series saloon

The BMW 3 Series saloon has been given an electric powertrain for the Chinese market, where it will be sold under the i3 name.

The new model, based on the long-wheelbase Chinese market version of the traditional BMW four-door, is planned to go on sale in May, shortly before the nine-year-old BMW i3 electric hatchback bows out of production.

It will be launched in rear-wheel-drive i3 eDrive35L guise, which is claimed to provide a range of up to 327 miles on the Chinese Light Duty Test Cycle (CLTC).

Drawing on developments brought to the Chinese-built BMW iX3 SUV that arrived in 2021, the new i3 eDrive35L has a single electric motor. Sited at the rear in a new electrified axle assembly, it develops the same 287bhp and 295lb ft as it does in the rear-driven iX3.

Energy for the motor is provided by a 66.1kWh (net) lithium ion battery pack using cells provided by the Chinese company CATL.  Mounted in a modified version of BMW’s CLAR platform structure, it can be charged at rates of up to 11kW by an AC charger and up to 95kW by a higher-powered DC system. The charging time from 10-80% is put at 35 minutes.

By comparison, the iX3 uses a larger 74kWh (net) battery that can be charged at up to 150kW.

BMW claims a 0-62mph time for the i3 eDrive35L of 6.2sec. An official top speed hasn't been announced, but BMW officials suggest it will be limited to the same 112mph as the iX3, as is common for Chinese-market models.

The i3 eDrive35L is based on the Chinese-market 3 Series L, which has a wheelbase 115mm longer than that of the standard model sold in other markets, extending its overall length to 4872mm.

Inside, the new i3 receives BMW’s eighth-generation iDrive infotainnment system and what BMW describes as a “wide range of cutting-edge digital features and services making their 3 Series debut”.

The packaging of the battery and power electronics reduces boot capacity over standard petrol and diesel versions of the 3 Series by 80 litres, at a claimed 400 litres. This is 25 litres more than that offered by the BMW 330e plug-in hybrid.

The new i3 is the second electric BMW model to be produced in China after the iX3.

Like its SUV sibling, the new four-door model is produced in a joint venture between BMW and Chinese car maker Brilliance in an operation called BMW Brilliance Automotive, headquartered in Shenyang. 

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