BMW has updated the i3 range with a crisp new look and a hot new range-topper, the i3S. The new model line will make its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show and go on sale from November. Prices will start from £34,070, £1,000 more than today’s model, but still from under £30,000 once the Plug-in Car Grant is factored in.
The new range is based around the 94Ah (33kWh) battery, which has now been standardised across the range (the REX range-extender kit is offered as an option). The regular i3 produces the same 170hp as before; the i3S ups it to 184hp, for a cut in 0-62mph time from 7.3 seconds to a hot hatch-like 6.9 seconds.
The i3S also gets a sporty chassis makeover, with a 40mm wider rear track, bigger 20-inch alloys, 10mm lower ride height plus bespoke springs, dampers and anti-roll bars. ASC stability control is revised, Dynamic Traction Control allows “mild and safely controllable drifts”, there’s a sport setting for the steering and a sport mode to configure the entire car with a suitably racy feel.
The i3S will go faster before its speed limiter kicks in: 99mph rather than 93mph. And BMW says modified electric motor control, which uses bespoke taper roller bearings, optimises power delivery at high motor rpm – at its limits, there’s a 40 percent improvement in power and torque.
Explore its more dynamic traits and you may well need to recharge it more often; BMW’s improved this too, by offering the latest BMW i Wallbox and charging cable. This charges the i3 up more quickly; BMW says 112 miles of range can be added in less than three hours – five times faster than a domestic plug socket.
Claimed range for the i3S, according to the NEDC test cycle, is 174 miles; for the regular i3, it’s between 180 and 186 miles.
2018 BMW i3 and i3S: styling and interior
The big change at the front of the 2018 i3 is the standardisation of full LED headlights. This sees the old round halogen main beam lamps replaced by LED indicator strips which, along with new front bumpers, give the front end a crisper, cleaner look. The i3S takes this a step further: its bumper has black outboard inserts with colour strips inset. You can also get a two-tone effect with a black bonnet option.
There’s a new bumper at the back, which is widened on the i3S to reflect its wider track. There’s a neat visual trick at play here as well: BMW fits the tailgate badges further outboard on the i3S, to make it appear broader.
Choose from two new-for-2018 colours pictured here: Melbourne Red and Imperial Blue.
Inside, BMW’s latest touchscreen iDrive system is fitted. It has a 10.25-inch screen, tile-based menu structure and standard Apple CarPlay. There’s a broader range of connected services too, some of which hook into EV-specific systems so you can, for example, closely monitor and control charging remotely.
Prices are up by around £1,000. They start from £34,070 for the i3, and £36,975 for the i3S. Both models are eligible for a category 1 government Plug-in Car Grant, taking £4,500 off what you pay for both: the i3 thus costs from £29,570, and the i3S, £32,475.