Size matters: BMW boosts 2017 i3's battery, equipment offerings

Bavaria's littlest electric city car ups its capabilities to better compete in an increasingly thick segment.

BMW

This bump in capacity puts the i3 toe to toe with the Nissan Leaf, which also recently extended its range past the 100-mile mark.

BMW

As more and more automakers are intent to roll out 200-mile small EVs (e.g., Tesla Model 3, Chevrolet Bolt), automakers with slightly older EVs are rushing to add battery capacity before buyers go scurrying elsewhere. This week, BMW boosted the 2017 i3's battery by 50 percent to put range over the 100-mile mark.

What was once a 22-kWh battery is now a 33-kWh pack, boosting its effective range from 80-ish to 114 miles in combined city/highway driving. BMW was able to make this change without affecting vehicle performance due to increase energy density in the battery's lithium ion cells. Charging time is estimated at 4.5 hours for a full charge on a Level 2 charger.

Opt for the range-extended i3, which includes a two-cylinder gas engine that charges the battery on the fly, and you'll find a 25 percent larger gas tank (now 2.4 gallons). Electric motor output is rated at 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. For 2017, the motor's consumption has been reduced, thanks to revised software and tweaks to its low-rolling-resistance tires.

There are also some new bits of equipment. The i3 can now be optioned in Protonic Blue, a color previous reserved for the i8 sports car. Standard equipment now includes the Deka World packages, which consists of a dark cloth fabric interior, universal garage door opener, real-time traffic information and keyless entry. As before, it's DC Fast Charging capable right out of the box.

Pricing is not yet official, but I'd expect there to be a small bump above the 2016 i3's base price of about $43,000.

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