Video, Words: Calvin Chan
Published: May 24, 2018
The BMW i3 was always a peculiar electric vehicle. It didn’t have the longest range, the best looks, or even the cheapest price tag, but it drove like a proper rear-wheel drive BMW and handled like no other EV on the market. But not every EV customer values driving dynamics over driving range, making the i3 a rather difficult proposition over its competitors, which offer more range and cheaper price tags.
But the i3 still has one trick up its sleeve and it’s this new sportier version, the i3s, and aims to spice up the flavour with performance in mind.
This “s” model receives a more aggressive body kit, wider wheels, and black finishes. Ride height has been dropped by 10 mm, the track widened by 40 mm, along with a horizontal rear spoiler adding to that optical illusion of a lower stance. All this makes the i3s appear lower and wider, therefore sportier.
The i3s receives a boost in power thanks to software optimization, up 14 hp and 15 lb-ft. for a total of 184 hp and 199 lb-ft. Along with new bearings for the electric motor and wider wheels to help get that power to the ground, the i3s pounces from 0-100 km/h in 7.3 seconds, only one-tenths of a second quicker than the standard i3.
BMW has left the steering and rear-drive layout untouched, and added a sport-tuned suspension to the mix. The stability control system has been revised to allow for what BMW calls "mild and safely controllable drifts when grip levels are reduced." There’s a Sport mode now too, which sharpens up the power delivery and steering. You certainly won’t find that in a Nissan Leaf.
Initially, I found it ironic: a sporty electric car that wants to increase its strength by lowering its endurance, all in a market where range and price are arguably the biggest deciding factors for purchasing an EV. While it didn’t make sense to me at first, after a week of driving the i3s, it does now. I’ve never had this much fun driving an EV. Usually when I drive an EV, I worry about how much range I have, my destination, all the thoughts come rushing into my head because the ride is so silent.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget how amazingly quick the i3s really is. Sub-200-horses is nothing to scoff at when you have a carbon fibre structure and a light chassis. Full acceleration from idle is enough to give you a dirty grin, and it feels even faster from a rolling stop. BMW says not only is power up, but the spread of that power is much wider, meaning there’s much more torque throughout the range.
Uniquely designed from the ground up, the i3s is no lightweight but this extremely rigid chassis let’s it handle so well. A willing dance partner. The non-adaptive sport suspension is noticeably firmer than the standard i3 and those incredibly thin tires don’t help much with ride quality either, but even over the bumpy streets the ride was never jarring or taxing enough for me to complain.
The regenerative braking, the effect whereby letting off the gas pedal will automatically slow down the car to recuperate energy, is much smoother since the last time I drove the i3. It is much easier to modulate the deceleration this time around, and as both a driver and passenger, it is less jerky and nauseating to experience. It’s a shame you can’t program how strong the regenerative effect is like you can in other EVs, but it’s an easy compromise with a low learning curve.
Sometimes you don’t even need to use the brakes, making driving a fun little game of don’t touch the brake pedal. The car will come to a full halt too and stay there. The back brake lights don’t light up when you do this though so it can be a little off putting to the drivers behind you.
You sit very upright in the i3s, which isn’t a bad thing. The window sill is at the perfect height for resting your arm out, and the center controls are low to the ground meaning you don’t have to raise your arm up very much. I sound like a sloth right now but it makes for an incredibly comfortable driving position. There’s even a center passthrough which frees up space for storage, or if you want to play footsies with your passenger.
There are excellent sightlines out back, and especially on the side where there are three windows to peer out of - very neat. The sunroof is expansive but you have this panel running through the center cutting it in half. Lots of interesting materials that are made from sustainable materials like kenaf, a type of sea grass, and designers have somehow found a way to amalgamate these with leather to create a luxurious interior. There are many storage options too, and a swoopy cervice under the screen. There is a trunk in both the front and back as well - front is on the small side.
The gear shifter is chunky with hard to reach buttons, and will take getting used to (rotate forward for D, rotate backward for R), but it’s the rear-hinged suicide rear doors that remain one of my biggest concerns. Though the overall interior is cleverly packaged and space in the rear is impressive, actually getting out of there requires the front door to be opened first to gain access to the rear door latch – have fun dropping off the kids. That being said, kids locked back there without a way out.
The more powerful and sportier looking i3s makes a compelling argument over its cheaper and longer-ranged electric competitors, and even over its combustion brethren in a similar price bracket, like the M240i. Fact of the matter is, if you value range and practicality over all else, the i3s probably isn’t for you. You’re going to find much cheaper EVs out there. This fully loaded i3s rings up at $66k, but Ontario gov’t will offer $12,000 of incentives. Still on the pricey side.
But if you do value driving experience as a top priority, and want an EV, the charm and wit of the i3s won’t disappoint. The ability to carve through twisties with nothing coming out of the pipes gives the i3s with an attitude, though quirky as it may be, that guides it away from the boring electric car stereotype and keeps the essence of a fun-to-drive BMW afloat.
型号 Model: 2018 BMW i3s
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $52,350; $56,950 (for Range Extender)
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,570
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,016 / 1,791 / 1,590
車重 Curb weight (kg): 3,278
引擎 Engine: two-cylinder 38-hp combustion engine
Battery Capacity: 94 Ah (33.2 kWh)
最大馬力 Total horsepower: 180 hp
最高扭力 Total torque: 199 lb-ft
波箱 Transmission: single-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 6.6 / 7.1 / 6.8
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Front 175/55R20; Rear 195/50R20