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BMW i3S: Most fun-to-drive battery electric vehicle

By Benjamin Yong, 31 Jan, 2019
  • BMW i3S: Most fun-to-drive battery electric vehicle

The German manufacturer has made the BEV even better for 2019, as well as introducing a sporty i3s model.

 

 

BMW’s award-winning i3 is already known as one of the most fun-to-drive battery electric vehicles (BEV) on the market with its torquey motor and classic German handling characteristics. Not one to rest on its laurels, the German manufacturer has made the BEV even better for 2019, as well as introducing a sporty i3s model.

In my opinion, the most important news is the implementation of a 30-per cent larger 33-kilowatt hour battery on every grade. This ups the travel range to 246 kilometres on a single charge, finally making the car a feasible daily driver rather than an around-town errand-mobile. Both the drive system and suspension have been upgraded on the s, and as a result there is an increase to output as well as big improvements to on-road agility. Total horsepower is now 184 and torque 199 lb-ft, up from 170 and 184 respectively. While the numbers seem modest, the bump in output is definitely discernable using the old butt dyno.

The i3s sits on speciality springs, dampers and anti-roll bars giving the EV a 10 millimetre lower ride height and the ability to corner much flatter than the standard variant, if at the expense of a little ride comfort – extra vigilance spotting speed bumps is required. Drivers can determine just how sporty the experience is using the dynamics control switch. After turning on the new Sport mode, the accelerator instantly becomes more responsive, and the steering firmer. When activated, the car can get from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.8 seconds, enough to create a funny feeling in this automotive journalist’s stomach for a second or two.

As before, a two-cylinder gasoline Range Extender (REX) remains an option. The engine drives a generator providing power when required so to maintain a constant level of charge in the battery, increasing the overall possible driving distance by another 75 kilometres. For apartment dwellers like myself who don’t have access to a reliable everyday charging station or even an underground parking lot power outlet, the REX add-on – priced at just under $5,000 – is a necessity.

To complement the boost in performance, the exterior is bolder than on the regular i3. To match the black roof and centre panels on the front and rear of the vehicle, the A-pillars, parts of the BMW kidney grille and a few other trim pieces are finished in a high gloss black. Underneath the full LED headlights are coloured accent strips painted BMW I Blue or Frozen Grey, helping show off the extra 40 millimetres in track width.

Every i3 benefits from the latest easy-to-operate iDrive user interface responsible for controlling everything infotainment related. If equipped with the Navigation Professional, the 10.25-inch screen features a higher-resolution display. My only nitpicky comment is that the rotary knob proves a little cumbersome for inputting GPS coordinates. Using voice commands is one solution, which can be executed more simply than previously via Natural Language Understanding functionality. For example, the computer recognizes casual phrases such as “find the closest gas station,” similar to how smartphone voice assistants work. The 2018 BMW i3s REX is listed at an MSRP of $56,950.

HIGHLIGHTS

MSRP: $66,645

Motor: Synchronous electric motor + two-cylinder gasoline engine

Horsepower: 184 (net) 

Torque (lb-ft): 199 (net)

Gearbox: Single-speed automatic 

Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive 

Fuel economy: 1.1 kWh/100 km mixed city/highway (observed)

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