BMW i3

The BMW i3 is BMW's first modern electric car. Powering base models is a 170-horsepower electric motor connected to the rear wheels via a single-speed transmission. The new i3s model puts out 184 horsepower and 184 lb-feet of torque from a 32-kWh lithium-ion battery. BMW claims an updated 0-60 mph of 6.9 seconds from the i3s. Rear-wheel drive prevents all that torque steer in check, while also ensuring that the i3 lives up to BMW's high standards for vehicle dynamics and handling. The i3 may be a departure from traditional BMW aesthetics and design, but it still offers the automaker's enthusiasm for performance and style.

BMW claims that the i3 has an electric-only range of about 114 miles in normal everyday driving, which should be plenty for most people's daily commute. The car's charging times are remarkably short; BMW claims a scant 39 minutes are needed to charge the car up to 80 percent capacity through the standard DC fast-charging system. Even at home, on a conventional 220V charger, the i3 only needs about four and a half hours to get from empty to a full charge. For those who desire a bit more range, BMW offers a range extender a small 2-cylinder gasoline engine that functions as a generator. With the range extender, the i3 can travel about 180 miles until it needs a gas or charging station.

The cabin is accessed through a combination of traditional front doors and rear-hinged rear doors. Inside, the i3 uses a variety of materials available in several different color combinations, BMW offers 3 trim packages they call "Worlds" Mega, Giga, and Tera. Many of the materials are renewable, sewn from hemp, kinaff and other unconventional plant fibers. More traditional materials are available as well, if desired.

Standard equipment on the i3 is plentiful, and includes BMW's iDrive system, an integrated SIM card, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, heated front seats, plus rear mounted parking sensors and a stationary climate control system. Options include a navigation system that is smart enough to interact with the car and suggest alternate routes based on battery charge, power moonroof, adaptive LED headlights, a glass roof, automatic climate control, a rearview camera and several driver assistance functions.

Editors' Review

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It's been more than three years since I last checked out BMW's quirky little electric i3. Beneath its goofy exterior design, the i3 is still a technological marvel, fitting an electric powertrain inside an advanced carbon fiber chassis and a gorgeous cabin made of sustainable materials. I continue to be impressed by this weird little ride.

But there's something new this year. The model gains a new sporty "s" trim level that builds upon the efficient, electric performance with slight spec improvements to power and agility. It's now slightly quicker, slightly sportier and a lot more fun when driven with spirit. But how does that jibe with the i3's eco mission?

Widening the wagon wheels

The BMW i3 has been notorious for its weirdly tall and narrow tires. The standard model corners, accelerates and stops surprisingly well on its Bridgestone Ecopia EP500 155/70R19 -- that's like temporary spare narrow -- tires' unconventionally shaped contact patches.

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The Good The i3s offers more grip, more power and sharper performance than the standard model. The interior looks amazing and uses sustainable high-quality materials.

The Bad The performance upgrade costs the i3s a few miles of electric range. The optional gas-powered range extender is a clunky solution to range anxiety. Competing models offer more driver aid tech and range for less money.

The Bottom Line The 2018 BMW i3s is an expensive option for an electric city car. Sure, you pay for quality, but there are better, less pricey EV values out there.

Editors' Rating
  • Performance 7
  • Features 7
  • Design 8
  • Media 7

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