The modern electric car was still in its infancy when the BMW i3 broke cover in 2013. The segment it competes in is now getting crowded, so Bimmer has updated its only battery-electric model to fend off competition from more recent entrants like Tesla’s Model 3. The changes will come into effect in time for the 2018 model year.
The big news for the next model year is the arrival of a long-rumored performance-oriented model named i3s. Don’t confuse performance with BMW’s M division; the i3s isn’t the M4 of the electric car segment. Its motor zaps the rear wheels with 184 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of instant torque, small increases over the garden-variety i3 that lower the car’s zero-to-60-mph to 6.8 seconds. The driver can engage a sport model to take full advantage of the extra power, and BMW promises the i3s is noticeably more dynamic to drive due to a lowered suspension and more engaging steering.
Driving range remains unchanged at around 97 miles. The optional two-cylinder range extender sips gasoline to generate electricity and feeds it directly to the lithium-ion battery pack sandwiched under the floor. It bumps the i3’s range to a more usable 180 miles.
BMW’s i Charging Station makes charging at home much more convenient by supplying 7.2 kilowatts of power — or 90 miles of range — in about three hours. For those who can’t install a charger at home, the new TurboCord provides flexible dual-voltage (120 and 240 volts) charging capacity at nearly three times the speed of a standard occasional use cable. It’s compatible with all of BMW’s electrified models including the i3, the i8, and plug-in hybrid cars like the 530e.
At first glance, the 2018 i3 looks a lot like the outgoing model. Look closely though and you’ll notice that designers penned new bumpers on both ends with sharper-looking accents that give the car a subtly sportier look, new-look front and rear lights, and an elegant strip of chrome trim on the hatch that emphasizes the i3’s width. It’s not just a mind trick because the bumpers are ever so slightly wider than before, though it sounds like the track remains the same.
The i3 benefits from the newest version of BMW’s iDrive infotainment system. Navigation remains optional, but buyers who pay extra for it are rewarded with an electric-car-specific version of BMW’s On-Street Parking Information, a service which helps motorists find parking spots in major American cities. The software shows a boundary representing the i3’s range, and it helps the driver find charging stations.
The 2018 BMW i3 and i3s will make their debut on September 12 during the opening day of the Frankfurt Auto Show. They’ll go on sale across the nation in the coming months. Look for a pricing announcement before then.