MUNICH – BMW unveils the new i3s, an updated version of its 3-year-old electric-powered hatchback featuring a more sporting appearance, added reserves and an upgraded wheel and tire package.
Planned for North American delivery by the end of 2017, it heads a new, facelifted i3 lineup set to make its public debut at the upcoming Frankfurt auto show.
Central among the changes to the new i3s is a more powerful synchronous electric motor. With 181 hp and 199 lb.-ft. (270 Nm) of torque, the rear-mounted unit is tuned to deliver 13 hp and 15 lb.-ft. (20 Nm) more than the motor used by the standard version of the facelifted i3, which continues to produce 168 hp and 184 lb.-ft. (250 Nm).
Both new i3 models deliver drive to the rear wheels via the same fixed-ratio gearbox. But while the standard i3 runs restyled 19-in. wheels shod with the same 155/70 profile low-rolling resistance as the original model launched in 2014, the new i3s comes with larger 20-in. alloys and wider 195/50 profile rubber.
With the larger wheels and greater levels of standard equipment, the i3s tips the scales 44 lbs. (20 kg) above its standard sibling at 2,789 lbs. (1,265 kg). However, its added power and torque sees it post a faster 0-62 mph (100 km/h) time at 6.9 seconds versus the claimed 7.2 seconds for the standard i3. The new range-topping i3 model also reaches a higher limited top speed of 100 mph (161 km/h) against the 93 mph (150 km/h) of its less-powerful sibling.
In a bid to improve its agility, BMW provides the i3s with a 1.6-in. (41 mm) wider rear track. It is combined with a sport suspension featuring a 0.4-in. (10 mm) lower ride height than the standard i3, together with uniquely tuned springs, dampers and anti-roll bars. Further changes are concentrated at the dynamic stability control system, which receives new software BMW says will provide faster and improved response to a loss in traction.
Another new feature is the sport driving mode that allows the driver to call up more direct properties for the steering and throttle.
The new i3 and i3s use the same 94Ah lithium-ion battery that was introduced as a running change to the BMW in early 2016. With a capacity of 33.2 kWh, the automaker says it gives both models a maximum range of between 146-158 miles (235-254 km) on the new WLTP (Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle) test procedure cycle. This is down from the 186 miles (300 km) claimed for the pre-facelifted model on the older but less representative NEDC (New European Driving Cycle) test.
As with the facelifted version of the standard i3, the new i3s comes with an optional range extender in the form of a rear-mounted 0.65L 2-cyl. gasoline engine. Bringing an additional 265 lbs. (120 kg) to the curb weight, it acts purely as a generator, providing electrical charge to the floor-mounted battery when energy stores are depleted below a certain threshold or when triggered by the driver.
The stylistic changes brought to the facelifted i3 are relatively subtle. The midlife makeover includes a new front bumper that features greater structure and replaces the round outboard high-beam lights with new, thin-line LED units that act as indicators. The headlamps are upgraded with LED functions for both the dipped and high beam. The new model also features a black roof, revised sills, lightly altered taillamp graphics and a revised rear bumper.
On top of this, the i3s gains subtle wheel arch flares as well as blue highlights within the bumpers and along the sills.
Inside, the ’18-model-year i3 receives revised trims and upholstery together with a new 10.3-in. (26-cm) infotainment display featuring a new tile-based operating system.