2018 BMW i3s

The BMW i3 is packed with clever engineering. Its carbon-fiber passenger cell rides on an aluminum skateboard chassis propelled by an electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery that can get a range-extending boost from an optional two-cylinder engine. And yet none of that is so far outside the box as the social engineering baked into BMW’s first electric car. The i3’s interior designers created a Zen-inspired cabin to lull drivers into a slower pace, in turn maximizing the battery’s range. That philosophy also helps explain why the tall and narrow runabout corners with all the eagerness of a phone booth.
As delightfully quirky and original as the i3 is, buyers have largely resisted its pulse-slowing charms. In the United States, BMW sells just a few hundred examples of the i3 every month, a convincing argument that few car buyers are seeking four-wheeled Zen. So four years into the i3’s existence, BMW is retrofitting some sportiness into—and an s badge onto—its electric car with the 2018 BMW i3s. This new model, set to land in dealerships alongside a facelifted i3 this month, promises quicker acceleration and livelier handling.

Pontiac Wasn’t Wrong: Wider Is Better

Wider tires are the cornerstones of the i3s’s upgrades, although don’t confuse that with “wide tires.” These tires are roughly as wide as those on the cheapest subcompact cars, measuring just 175/55R-20 in front and 195/50R-20 at the rear, making them significantly wider than the standard i3’s 155/70R-19 rubber at all four corners. The new tires fill out the wheel wells for a more stable-looking stance and increase the vehicle’s track by 1.6 inches.
The i3s also rides on stiffer springs, dampers, and anti-roll bars, with the body lowered by 0.4 inch compared with the standard i3. The ride quality is well matched to modern roads, although the medieval stone-and-brick back alleys of Lisbon, Portugal, caused heads to wobble and bob. Corners are met with noticeably flatter body motions, but a parking-lot cone course set up by BMW proved the car is no more eager to turn in. It’s telling that the tight gymkhana kept speeds below 25 mph. The i3s’s compact dimensions lend it a low-speed nimbleness but do nothing for high-speed stability. And even if they’re wider, the i3s’s tires are the same low-rolling-resistance Bridgestone Ecopias as those used on the regular i3, and their relatively low limits mean hustling the i3s is still a pulse-calming affair. The i3s remains so disinterested in aggressive cornering that it’s easy to forget this is a rear-wheel-drive car with a mid-mounted motor; an electric Porsche Cayman the BMW i3 is not. As an improvement over the i3, though, the i3s seems better positioned to replace the standard car than to merely complement it.

More Electric Pep in Its Step

Acceleration improves thanks to an additional 14 horsepower and 15 lb-ft of torque versus the standard i3. Easy off-the-line thrust is enabled by a 199-lb-ft torque plateau sustained from zero to 4500 rpm. BMW claims that fattening the power and torque curves across the rev range will bring significant improvements in acceleration times. We expect zero-to-60-mph times to drop from 6.6 to 6.3 seconds for the battery-electric version. A new Sport driving mode is exclusive to the i3s model. Since the dampers are passive units, Sport mode has no effect on ride quality, but it does make the steering slightly weightier. More noticeable is how it remaps the accelerator pedal’s tip-in to be unnaturally peppy.
For a $3850 premium, the i3s also can be fitted with the two-cylinder gasoline range extender that allows the BMW to keep moving after the battery is depleted. That car should hit 60 mph in 6.9 seconds. The greater rolling resistance of the wider tires likely will ding efficiency and range for both models. Although BMW hasn’t revealed the official numbers, we don’t expect the EPA-rated range to change much from the 2017 battery-electric model’s 114 miles.

A Class of One

Even if range were to remain unchanged, we’re now living in an era where EV buyers can expect significantly more range for significantly less money. And the $3200 premium to step up from the base i3 model to the sportier i3s version only makes BMW’s EV more expensive. Prices start at $48,645 for the electric-only i3s and $52,495 for the i3s with the optional range extender. That’s a price premium and a performance penalty that can’t be justified by the BMW badge alone.
This is the same, larger problem that plagued the original i3 and that can’t be fixed with an infusion of sportiness. With all the quirk of a Japanese kei car and all the complexity of a hypercar, there is no other car on the market quite like the BMW i3 and i3s. Based on the slow sales, it’s not hard to see why.
Specifications >
VEHICLE TYPE: mid-motor, rear-wheel-drive, 4-passenger, 4-door hatchback
BASE PRICES: i3s, $48,645;
i3s with range extender, $52,495 
MOTOR TYPE: permanent-magnet synchronous AC, 184 hp, 199 lb-ft; 33.2-kWh lithium-ion battery pack 
TRANSMISSION: 1-speed direct drive
OPTIONAL GENERATOR: permanent-magnet synchronous AC, 25 kW (driven by a DOHC 8-valve 647-cc inline-2, 38 hp, 41 lb-ft)
Wheelbase: 101.2 in
Length: 158.1 in
Width: 70.5 in Height: 62.6 in
Passenger volume: 84 cu ft
Cargo volume: 15 cu ft
Curb weight (C/D est): 3000–3300 lb
Zero to 60 mph: 6.3–6.9 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 15.2–15.7 sec
Top speed: 99 mph
Combined/city/highway (EV only): 112/125/100 MPGe
Combined gasoline+electricity (with range extender): 105 MPGe

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  1. Had no experience with this very one, but I'm owning a used i3 original one and yes, it's the best electrocar I've ever seen before! Against all the odds owners of electric cars still suffering, like the lack of charging stations and else, it's the most convenient car I've been driven for all my lifetime. And it wasn't a piece of work to buy a used one: I just met a guy from the autotrader ad, did some test-drive, then checked its VIN-number by this service to get reports on cars' and motorcycles' previous state and history https://www.faxvin.com/vin-check/harley-davidson Everything was pretty clear about this BMW, so there was no reason to hesitate