2018 BMW i3s: Eco Friendly Fun

    Posted by Shane Kalicharan about 6 months ago

    Carbon fiber chassis, lowered ride height, a wider track width and a newly sculpted body complete with a spoiler, and of course, a sport button. You’d be forgiven for thinking we were describing a sports car. It’s actually the latest iteration of BMW’s electric hatchback, the i3s. Unlike it’s big brother, the i8 (reviewed here), BMW’s little i3 has had a more polarizing reception when it comes to style. The funky little car doesn’t really seem to fit much of the design language dictated on BMW’s other offerings. The i3 does sell well, but still lags behind competition like the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt. But the Bavarians aren’t slowing down their efforts yet. The new i3s has a trick up its sleeve – the all important Sport button. While it seems backwards for an electric car to offer a mode that increases power consumption, the i3s ends up finding brilliance in this apparent contradiction.

    The i3s’ sporty tuning starts with the power delivery itself. BMW fitted the i3s with a new high performance electric motor, going so far as to tweak even the ball bearings in the motor to try to optimize the power output. You’ll get 14hp over the base i3. The aforementioned sport button in the i3s gives punchier acceleration and a heavier steering feel. In addition to the lowered suspension and wider track, the i3s also sports some 20-inch wheels exclusive to the trim, as well as some slight resculpting in the front and rear. The i3s’ interior is seemingly unchanged. You can opt for some optional seatbelts in BMW’s ‘iBlue’ for an extra splash of colour. Our tester was fitted with an optional sunroof that featured a split sliding cover. So if you wanted some light but your passenger didn’t, you can do that. But, the sunroof is split down the middle with the headliner, despite the pane of glass being a single piece.

    Like all electric cars, the i3s benefits from the joy of instant torque. While on paper, its stats like 180 horsepower aren’t all that impressive, cars like the i3s can teach us not to judge a car by its figures, but rather how it actually feels. The i3s, even in non-sport mode, is genuinely fun to drive. The lightweight carbon fiber chassis helps offset the weight of the batteries and electric motor – as well as the added weight of our tester’s range extending gasoline engine. The rear drive setup also helps with the fun characteristic. While the i3s’ nature, as well as sport mode, ends up sapping some of the total range in favour of performance, it’s not as much of a drawback as you might think, provided your daily commute is in line with the average Canadian. Slap on a good set of winter tires and the car should be fine in most wintery conditions. But do be aware that batteries aren’t as efficient in cold weather and won’t have the same kind of range all year round.

    Speaking of range, it’s the biggest anxiety for electric car owners. That fear you’ll run out of charge and get stranded during your commute. While there are tools in place, like regenerative braking, to help prevent that, even turning on your heated seat will take a cut of your total charge. The i3s gets about 172km of range, according to BMW. But bear in mind, these are under the most ideal circumstances. Real world driving likely won’t yield the same number. But that said, for the average driver’s daily commute, this should be more than enough. And if you should need to go further, or if you happen to run out of charge, the gasoline generator will kick in. The sound is a bit jarring, but it certainly gets the job done, adding potentially 110km of range when your battery is depleted.

    Charging the i3s is done like any other electric car. Either use one of the many charging stations placed at hotels, malls, dealerships, etc. Or have BMW’s charging station installed at your place of residence, if it’s possible. This might be an issue for those living in condos. You can use a standard 120v outlet, but with the i3s, we can’t recommend that. Leaving it charging overnight will not gain you any meaningful charge. On this standard outlet, charging can take up to 28 hours, whereas the 240v in most charging stations, as well as BMW’s home charger, cuts that time down to a maximum of 8 hours.

    Even if the looks are polarizing, there is still a lot to like about the i3s. But there are a few areas where it does fall short, or at least, is a bit questionable. The car’s rear suicide doors, while a sleek and interesting feature, can only open once the front doors are open. The steering mounted gear shifter can be finicky to deal with as well. And last but not least, there’s the price. But to be fair to BMW, this is something every electric car currently deals with. The i3s starts at $56,950. That’s a lot to swallow for the average Canadian. Our well equipped tester rings in at just under $66,000. There are cheaper EV options out there, like the Nissan Leaf or the Hyundai Ioniq, but one could also argue that they wouldn’t have the sporty, fun to drive character you expect out of a BMW. 

    BMW, BMWi, BMW i, BMW i3, BMW i3s, i3, i3s, Carbon Fiber, Electric Car, EV, Electric Vehicle, Green Vehicle, Range Anxiety, Charging, Car Charger

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